Saira Bautista de Preciado proudly stands amongst the hundreds of University of Nebraska–Lincoln employees who work behind scenes supporting student success.
For the last decade, Bautista de Preciado has served on University Housing’s custodial team, cleaning spaces in Kauffman Residential Center. While the work is demanding, she is quick with a welcoming smile and kind word for the nearly 120 Raikes School students living in the hall.
“Every day, I try to come to work with the best attitude, to greet the students with a smile and make each of them feel at home while they are here on campus,” Bautista de Preciado said. “I also try to clean the best way possible, making sure the students have a nice space to study, learn and live.”
Originally from Guatemala, Bautista de Preciado immigrated to the United States in 1998 to be with her husband, Eber. Their family — which includes three sons — lived in Los Angeles for seven years before moving to Lincoln.
The transition to United States life was difficult for Bautista de Preciado, who had been a teacher, working in a Guatemalan middle school and specializing in literature. While well-educated, her job prospects were limited as she learned English.
“Taking a job as a cleaner was a very difficult thing for me at first,” Bautista de Preciado said. “It was very hard work. But, I told myself that I had to change my mind — that I needed to enjoy my job.
“When I made the decision to be more positive, everything changed.”
Her first cleaning job in Lincoln was with Novartis. She joined University Housing in 2012, drawn to campus by the benefits package, including the opportunity to take reduced-cost classes through tuition remission.
“I planned to take classes, but I never had the time,” said Bautista de Preciado, who has three children, a son and two daughters. “But that is OK. It is something that could benefit our kids.”
In the halls of the Raikes School, Bautista de Preciado’s positive attitude and dedication are appreciated by students, faculty and staff.
Kieran McWilliams, a senior computer science major from Ashland, Nebraska, said he sees Bautista de Preciado three to five times a week. With each passing — no matter what task she is performing — Bautista de Preciado pauses to offer a greeting.
“Seeing Saira in the halls never ceases to brighten my day,” McWilliams said. “She is a hard worker, a heartfelt individual and a kind soul. She truly means a lot to this community and, after I graduate in May, I will miss her and the joy she has brought to my years on campus.”
At the end of the work day, it’s that kind of connection that Bautista de Preciado takes pride in forging.
“I miss my job before, being a teacher. But I am blessed to be a part of this building and the Raikes School community,” Bautista de Preciado said. “I am here for the students and I do get to teach —a little — by talking with them and giving advice.
And I try to always be happy around them because happiness can be contagious.”