Elizabeth Koch is an Associate Director at SLICE in the area of student leadership development. Jesse Koch is also an Associate Director at SLICE for Greek Life and a Housefellow. Both have student-facing jobs, work in the same office, and share a passion for providing mentorship here at Carnegie Mellon University.
What most students are surprised to discover, however, is that Elizabeth and Jesse are married!
We sat down to talk to them about their respective jobs, their interests, and what it’s like to work with your spouse.
How do students usually react when they find out that you’re married?
Elizabeth: It depends – sometimes it blows people’s minds. They think of us on a first name basis, and no one calls me Mrs. Koch! So, I guess it’s unexpected. They think it’s funny.
Jesse: They’re mostly indifferent or they don’t make a big deal out of it.
E: We don’t make a big deal of it, and it’s only when there’s a shared student that it comes up. I don’t go around saying: ‘You should talk to my husband, Jesse.’ That would be weird!
Why did you both gravitate towards such student-facing jobs?
J: I don’t want to speak for both of us, but we had highly impactful undergrad experiences. We both had mentors that said: ‘Hey, do you want to do this [mentoring students] for a living?’ It’s a luxury to see students for the majority of their time here until they graduate. You get to watch as they grow and succeed.
E: The people who have this type of job really love it. I oversee 350 student orgs, and I get to see how students have built their own little communities and support groups…and that’s exciting: helping students find other people who care about them! It’s hard to explain my job sometimes, but I mostly help in the financial-world. I help students solve financial issues they’re having with their org and help them get their projects off the ground.
It’s interesting that you both had strong mentors in your undergraduate experience. What did you study before coming to CMU?
E: Well, we both had higher education in Student Affairs. In my undergrad, I studied Industrial and Labor Relations, which I explain as a business degree but from the perspective of how to lead people. So that’s actually been super related and useful to what I do now.
J: I studied Criminal Justice in undergrad. That type of mindset does help a lot with what I do now, in terms of student org conduct.
E: We were both really involved with leadership in college. I was Chair of Slope Day at Cornell (undergrad), which is like our version of Carnival. Jesse was a leader in his frat and really involved with the intramural softball team.
What are the more challenging aspects of your respective jobs?
J: I don’t know if I would say that this is challenging because it’s an integral part of the job, but, keeping all the balls in the air! Since we do work so closely with students, we
might have an itinerary or plan set for the day, but if one student or org has a crisis it overtakes your job. So, you have to accept unpredictability and put things on hold to help students when they need you.
E: I would say that I love the breadth of what I do, but, because I’m working with so many people, I can only form deep relationships with a select number of students. Hypothetically, I would love to meet with everyone, but that just isn’t possible.
How did you two meet, and what are things you enjoy doing outside of work?
E: We met here on my second day of work, but we used to be in separate offices. It was before SLICE became one office. We got married in November 2017, so we weren’t even engaged quite yet when SLICE became an office. Promoting The Bridge was our first shared responsibility –
J: Wow, I don’t remember that.
E: Yeah! And for outside of work…well, we go to concerts downtown, we like finding new restaurants, we go to Pirates games. We have two big dogs that we walk around campus a lot.
J: We live right off Craig street because I’m a Housefellow; for that role you need to be nearby.
E: We also set up an Ice Pop station every year to cheer on the marathon runners. We’ve been doing that a few years now! Since we do share the same coworkers, it’s nice to meet people outside of CMU, or meet people through friends of friends.
J: We’re also really into Pittsburgh social sports. We’re both on a softball team together.
Elizabeth and Jesse enjoy living in Pittsburgh and generally find their shared work environment to be a plus, rather than a negative. Because they live nearby, Elizabeth says they can go home for lunch and let the dogs out. If anything, their similar positions point to what they have in common and find important: they excel in leadership roles, and they love helping their students succeed!