It’s not just a job…
I met Renee Christensen, a Preston Idaho native for the first time in 2013 at an instructional meeting for ushers. She was the Ticketing Assistant for Brigham Young University – Idaho, had short cut blonde hair, around 5’11” and seemed a bit intimidating to me as a freshman. I learned that there was so much more to Renee and that she did so much more for the students then just give orders to ushers.
One of the first things I learned about Renee was that she really wasn’t intimidating.
“People who don’t know me, I think sometimes think I’m serious. But I’m such a fun person. I love to have fun, I love to laugh. I’m really a nice person. I love hiking, I love the outdoors. I love hiking with my family. One of our favorite things to do is go out to Southern Utah and hike down in canyon lands.”
Renee has worked in her current position for the past 5 years at BYU – Idaho, in total she has worked 15 years for the university. At her current position she has many duties, they include: schedule the different events on campus, create 1200-1300 different schedules that she puts out for the amount of people needed for different locations and shows, figure out which individuals work well with each other for events, train and hire cashiers for the shows, train new employees, coordinate with directors from all the shows since different directors like things run differently, she works with them to cater their needs, she has to work with customers and be as accommodating as possible to patrons, and get devotional ushers recruited and trained.
She feels that one of her more important roles is making sure that the devotional ushers feel connected to devotional. It’s difficult she said because to have a desire to be there every week can be difficult sometimes, but it all works out somehow.
“I want to make sure that my devotional ushers have a good experience serving and understand the importance of serving in their lives. I know that right now, especially now can be a selfish point in their lives because they worry about their school, their life, “me, me, me, me”. And I think it’s really important to learn how to look outside ourselves and how we can lift and help other people.” She said.
To help achieve this goal Renee has encouraged her ushers to serve full heartedly. One way to do this was creating a special day for the ushers to serve out of their roles as ushers.
“I think about a year and a half ago I instituted the Devo Day of Service. That is where we take a day and I ask the devotional ushers to find some person or someway to help somebody else and they take that time to look outside themselves and do some service. It’s kind of grown some, this semester a group of us went to the temple and did a session together. We went out to the Family Crisis Center, another group got together and they made winter hats that they donated to the Family Crisis Center. As this progresses I see the kids that they are beginning to understand more, the importance of serving and how it brings them to live a more Christ-like life. And that is what our ultimate goal is.”
The original reason how she ended up working in the university was based mainly on the need of having some extra income and to be able to be with her family.
Five years ago, a person she worked with decided to retire. Afterwards, Renee went to her supervisor to get that same job, simply because she had a desire for that job.
“It’s really amazing because it’s something I’m really good at and I don’t like saying that but it is something I’m really good at. I really like organizing things and love working with the students and being able to help them be better than what they are and help them become more of who they’re supposed to be.”
“I feel a great sense of responsibility with that whether it’s with my volunteers or my student ushers that are paid. I feel a great sense of responsibility that when they go out into the workforce that they are going to be good employees and that they are going to be a good representation of the university.”
These have become some of the reasons of why she does what she does. She mentioned that, “it’s been a huge blessing to be able to work here at the university.”
When asked how she was lead to the job she gave a bit of her story. Not a native to Rexburg, she was born in Preston, Idaho. She then lived in Bountiful, Utah for a while then graduated an usher in high school in Laurel, Montana. She then went on and met husband in Ricks College, they were FHE brother and sister. They lived in Spokane, Washington for almost 11 years, and then 17 years ago he got a job in a juvenile correctional facility here in St. Anthony, Idaho. She had raised her family in Sugar City, Idaho.
She had been in a lot of places but Rexburg was the last place she wanted to live in. “I cried when I found out we were going to move to Rexburg, I didn’t want to live here.”
Working for the state, her husband doesn’t get paid too much so they needed the extra income. “I remember interviewing for the job it felt good and it felt right. I was able to realize what my talents were. When I was growing up I didn’t think I had any. I played basketball I ran track, but what is basketball and track going to do in the long term? So, it took me quite a while to realize, “You’re really good at organizing things Renee, you’re really good with the youth and you really can help them.” And so, it’s been interesting for me to see the direction that has come to pass when this job has kind of fit what I needed and also fit what my talents and abilities are. So, it’s a really good fit for me.”
“I like thing in order, it’s fun for me to organize things and I really like it when things run smoothly. It’s really fun to watch the devotional ushers as well as my other ushers grow and progress and see them get it. Understand what they’re doing and what they’re purpose is.”
It seems that the truth is that Renee Christensen has also grown and progressed in her work. She remembered the first event she worked. It was a show at the Hart Gym, and the show was “The Messiah”.
“It was crazy busy and afterwards I thought “this is awesome”. I was nervous but I felt confident that this was something I could do. In fact, even now I like working the crazy busy events, they’re fun to work and it’s fun to see the chaos that ensues in the beginning of the event and during the event. Getting everybody through the door and having the event start on time and know that you’re a part of it. It’s very rewarding and it’s fun for us.”
She illustrated her biggest challenge on the job was getting all of her job done. I’m not full time so my biggest challenge is doing my job well and efficiently in the time I’m allowed to do it. I don’t want to go full time yet because I still have a son at home, he’s a 17-year-old and believe it or not he still needs his mom there. When he graduates or if he decides to serve a mission we’ll revisit the idea of working full time. But right now, the challenge is getting all my work done to the level that I want it done, in the time that I have.”
One of the things that was a bit of a challenge but even more surprising to her about the job was how disrespectful some of the students can be at times.
“It’s kind of is disheartening when you have to tell them no when you’re sold out at a show. You can’t let them in. Or it’s 7:30 and the doors are closed and when the director says “doors are closed”, the doors are closed and you can’t let them in because they’re at 7:33 and they kind of sometimes get rude with you. And you’re just following the director’s order.“
In the middle of explaining this Renee made a deep comparison between her work and the scriptures.
“I do remember this one event that we worked, it was just crazy, crazy busy and we had also sold out but we had a stand by line because the director’s want us to fill the venue so we sold tickets to the stand by. We just had craziness going on and some people didn’t get in because they were late and when I was driving home I was just thinking about the event and how we could make it better and how we could’ve made things different.”
“A thought came into my head really strongly about the parable of the ten virgins and how some people were not prepared, how the door was literally closed on them at this event because they did not purchase a ticket early, and they did not get there early. I thought how interesting it was how that came into my mind, “this is exactly like the parable of the ten virgins, they were not prepared.”” She recounted.
Renee is a striking example of a hard worker and of someone that loves her job. She inspires and motivates those under her to do their best and to learn the true value of serving one another. One of her only wishes is for people to know how hard she works and how much of her personal self she puts into her job.
“I take pride in my job, I take pride in the fact that things run smoothly, things are organized. I take pride in that I’m truly helping students become better people and more of who they’re supposed to be. I believe I’m helping the volunteers become more of what Heavenly Father wants them to be through their service and teaching them the importance of service and that’s what they’re going to be doing the whole time there. Members of the church serving their callings, serving their neighbors, serving their callings and to learn how to do it with a happy and grateful heart.”
Below is a training video that is shown to devotional ushers.
The Brigham Young University – Idaho Center
The BYU-Idaho I – Center (as called by many students and faculty) is the biggest building on the university’s campus. It houses more than 15,000 seats in its auditorium. It has a “multi-use” area that is made up of ten basketball courts. There is an indoor track in this part of the building. There are three floors and each one has paintings of well-known paintings. Pictures in the main level have paintings and works by Carl Bloch that illustrate the life and moments in Christ’s life. The lower level has paintings that depict some events from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint’s history. The top level has paintings featured by the artist, Minerva Teichert, with paintings that depict scenes from the Book of Mormon.
The Auditorium is used for weekly devotionals, commencement exercises for graduations, concerts, cultural events, and other ecclesiastical meetings.
The building was dedicated by President Henry B. Eyring on December 17, 2010, after four years of construction. It has nearly 435,000 square feet of space. It’s most recent use was for “A BYU-Idaho Christmas with David Archuleta and Nathan Pacheco” on December 3, 2016. It was the first ever sold out show in the building.