Published: May 10, 2021

Editor’s note: Get to Know is a faculty and staff series highlighting community through the unique perspectives, interests and involvements of individuals on campus. 

Michael Shernick

Michael Shernick pictured in front of Alphabotanicals artwork he designed and drew as the illustrations for a book

 Get to know Michael Shernick, program coordinator for the Stories and Societies RAP

Without saying your title, describe who you serve on campus and what you do.

Every year I support 320 students and more than 20 faculty in Sewall Hall for the Stories and Societies RAP. I run a one-person office, doing everything from helping students find the best resources on campus for any problem they bring to me to making sure the faculty are paid. Some parents have referred to me as an "academic concierge" once they hear how much I can help their child.

Beyond your unit, what is a campus group or effort you are involved in or want to highlight?

I work for one of 12 Residential Academic Programs on campus. The RAPs were started in Sewall Hall in 1970 by a student initiative to bring classes and faculty to the students where they lived. Since then, we've grown to a dozen RAPs (seven in Arts and Sciences, two in business, two in engineering and one in CMCI) serving more than 50% of the incoming first-year class each year.

We help students make the academic and personal transition to college via courses and co-curricular activities taught and held in their residence halls. Our faculty are experts in teaching first-year students, and our staff are dedicated to helping first-years learn everything they need to know, from how to register for courses to where to put a stamp on an envelope.

What are you most proud of professionally or personally?

I'm very proud of my volunteer service as a city of Longmont planning and zoning commissioner since 2010, with the past five years acting as the chair of the commission.

I graduated with my Master of Architecture degree from CU Denver in 2009, at the height of the crash. Unemployment for architects in Colorado was about 40–60%. I never became a registered architect due to this, but I applied to serve on the Planning and Zoning Commission to put my education and creative talents to good use.

I've served with amazing city staff and other volunteer commissioners; I've met a wide spectrum of city residents; and I can look at projects around town and know I had something to do with them. For example, the height exception request for the Oskar Blues sign on the silo at the entrance to Longmont was the first decision I helped make as a commissioner.

I’m also very proud to have received the Marinus Smith Award twice, in 2016 and again in 2021. The Marinus Smith Award is based on nominations by students and their families and recognizes “a particularly positive impact on our students.” To me, it's the highest honor I can receive at the university.

What are your favorite spots or moments on campus?

My favorite moment on campus was when I took mail to Mailing Services in the basement of Regent Hall and met Martha. Martha and I have been married for 23 years now.

What is your current office like?

My office is in Sewall Hall, which was built in 1934 as the women's dorm and was the first purpose-built dorm on campus. It was designed by Charles Z. Klauder, who established the campus architectural style, and it is often considered the best of the buildings he designed for CU. My office is a dorm room with an en suite bathroom, which still functions.

Sewall has never been fully renovated, so my office still has some original doors and wood trim, penny tile in the bathroom, and I have a Klauder-designed mirror on the wall. I think of Sewall Hall as the “grande dame” of the campus buildings, and we often have alumni come back to visit her––one family had four generations of women who all had lived in Sewall Hall!

What is the best-kept secret on campus?

The Boulder campus is so full of history, nooks and crannies, and special memories for me, it's hard for me to choose just one “best kept secret.” Instead, I'll suggest something for students: office hours.

Go to your professor's office hours. As an honors student once told me, “What makes an honors student is not that we're smarter; it's that we ask for help before anyone else.” So go to your professor's office hours with good questions. Office hours are so underutilized, you'll feel like you've stumbled on the best kept secret on campus, and you'll do better in class!