In the family
By Liz White, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-2848
There are a number of titles you could give Maggie Malik, Wallace Crosby and any of the other 18 house directors in the Greek Village. Sometimes they are policemen, chefs, landscapers, managers, counselors.
“Today, I’m a vacuum repairman,” Crosby says, testing a vacuum cleaner in the house’s expansive dining room.
Mostly, though, Malik and Crosby would describe what they do as being parents, or brothers or sisters to the students living and spending time in their homes. It’s all about family.
“This is my house and these are my kids,” says Crosby, the house director for Pi Kappa Phi. “At 50, I had no kids at all. Then I went out and adopted 38 of them.”
Malik, now in her sixth year as house director for Chi Omega, says people have the wrong idea about what her job entails.
“Some people say we sit here all day, eat bonbons and watch TV,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t think so.”
The house directors in the Greek Village have a very different kind of work environment. They are employees of the university and the individual sororities and fraternities. They live in the house alongside their students. And they’re on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“My responsibility here is to see that they stay healthy and happy, and graduate,” she says.
Crosby, who will have completed four years in the house in December, says his job is part dad, part medic, part plumber and part handyman. The house and everything in it is his responsibility.
“A lot of my personal life is here,” he says. “This is my family.”
Unexpected but perfect fit
Neither Crosby nor Malik thought their career path would lead them to the Greek Village at USC. But both have been able to incorporate their former careers into their current positions.
Malik, who worked in diagnostic ultrasound and was a radiology administrator, has drawn on her background in health care, especially her experience with the chaotic emergency room, in caring for the girls in her house.
“There are so many aspects of it that you can pretty much across the board utilize all that information here in some manner,” she says.
Malik’s friend, a former Chi Omega, approached her about becoming the house director. Her husband had died seven years before taking on her role at the house so there was “nothing keeping me from doing it,” she says.
Although, it’s tough to have a social life outside of the house, Malik spends her vacations in Pennsylvania with her six grandchildren and has a boyfriend who the girls in the house love, she says.
Crosby, who comes from a career in the hotel and restaurant business, describes his job as a manager of a small hotel.
“This is my little hotel. I’m the general manager and the executive chef,” he says. “My guests check-in in August, go on vacation for Christmas, come home in January, and then I kick them out in May.”
When his elderly mother and grandmother he was caring for both passed away, Crosby reached a darker point in his life. He began searching and praying for what to do with his life after retiring at 40 from the restaurant industry.
Then he discovered the job at Pi Kappa Phi. It was divine intervention, he says.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” he says. “It’s the only one I’ve actually liked.”
Calm in chaos
Malik has a staff of six that she oversees and a house of 35 live-in Chi Omegas with more than 200 members coming in and out throughout the day.
Her job will be a lot tougher in January when the chapter initiates the 113 new members. Malik says size is one of the biggest challenges. The small staff must prepare lunch and dinner for the sorority and that time crunch can be a bit much. She says her prior career experience helps her stay calm in the chaos.
"Sometimes you just can’t get away from it” she says. “The chaos is always around you, but it’s a good kind of chaos. It’s happy and it’s motivating.”
Despite the chaos, Malik keeps her door open 24-hours; it’s never locked. She’s had girls come in to her room in the early morning hours to cry on her shoulder. And, she says, she’s always there to listen.
Her desk is full of wedding or postgraduate degree ceremony invitations. She gets letters, Facebook messages and emails from former girls and their families.
Fraternity living is a little different, Crosby says. Crosby doesn’t have too many boys crying on his shoulder, although, it happens on occasion.
He may have to get up at 4 a.m. if the boys are rowdy, but Crosby loves having the opportunity to cook in the gourmet kitchen.
In the afternoons, when he gets a minute to himself, he tends to his garden on the front porch. Then he runs off to help unload the day’s food delivery for the 72 members.
The busy schedule is worth it, Crosby says. “It keeps me young,” he says.
Before moving into the Greek Village, Malik and Crosby didn’t have experience with fraternities or sororities. Now, both say they see the benefits of USC’s Greek system.
A graduate of the USC’s Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management College and native of Columbia, Crosby knew about Greek Life at the university but had never participated; he was fiercely independent in college, he says.
As an adult, he says he remembers driving into town over Blossom Street as the Pi Kappa Phi house was being built.
“I never thought there would be a job here for me and who would want to live so close to the railroad tracks?” he says.
Shortly after moving into the house, though, the fraternity’s alumni initiated him into the organization. He is the only house director to have become a member of the fraternity he watches over.
For him, the most rewarding part is watching the boys grow up, see the “light come on” as graduation approaches and being a positive role model.
“If I can keep some of these kids from making the same mistakes I made when I was in college, maybe they’ll have a chance,” he says. “I was just like them. I see that it does make a difference for some of them.”
Malik says seeing the students move out into the world is a great part of the job.
“We all want to see these kids really show the world the wonderful men and women that they really are,” she says. “These are great human beings. They have a lot of offer, they work hard. And to see how they go out in the world and keep progressing is always incredible.”
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