Alumni award winner reflects on raising a family on campus
Posted on May 16, 2017 by Tia Lalani
Alumni award recipient Brandi Chytracek on why she still calls Augustana home.
Loud music, even louder voices, and the laughter of young students unwinding from a stressful week of class are some of the sounds you would expect to hear from a college dorm. But a baby crying?
From 1982 to 1999, that was the case for the students of Moi Hall, when Brandi Chytracek and her husband Mark, then director of Student and Residence Services, lived in residence at Augustana Campus, raising their three children, Jon, Amanda, and David, and providing for the college community far beyond Mark’s employment duties.
“All of our children came from hospital to dorm,” said Brandi, remembering those days fondly as she received the 2016 Alumni Citation Award, which recognizes the contributions of a non-alumnus/a to the life of Augustana.
In addition to being a teacher, admission counsellor and mother, Brandi took on a number of extra roles around Augustana, including assisting with hall coordination, resident assistance and executive training of the student association, delivering workshops for effective communication, and somewhat less formally, offering future parents tips on toilet training.
“The kids in the dorms heard and saw our relationship as a couple, heard and saw our parenting,” Brandi explained. “They even presented me an award for ‘Toilet Training in Less Than a Day’ as they heard everything I was saying to Jon as I trained him.”
Having such a close relationship with a number of students made the Chytraceks an invaluable part of dorm living.
“The residences became homes, not just institutional buildings, and the students were not numbers, but part of a larger family,” said Michelle Munro who lived there in 1984.
Former resident assistant Jackie de Montarnal applauded Mark and Brandi’s relationship.
“Together, they were the epitome of a true partnership and they lived their life together in service of the Augustana community, from the time that they first moved into residence until the day that Mark passed away and Brandi continued to live that mission of service,” she said.
That service continues not only in the love that the Chytracek family continues to show to Augustana, but also through a student award that established in Mark’s name—the Mark Chytracek Leadership Award—the most prestigious leadership award at Augustana, given to a graduating student at convocation who has shown an outstanding level of service and overall investment in the life of Augustana campus and/or the broader civic community.
Brandi was presented with the Alumni Citation Award at the Student Leadership Reception, which was very fitting given the finalists for the Mark Chytracek Leadership Award—students Autumn MacDonald, Hope McDonald, Jennifer Ha and Mickayla Sutherland—were announced, and because the evening was always a favourite of her late husband.
“Mark loved the opportunity to celebrate students, their gifts, and what they’ve given to the community and the university,” Brandi said. “It’s a little bittersweet because he’s not here, but one of the blessings we have is that he lives on in the students here, just as they live on in our hearts.”
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