Feature Story: Acknowledging the Hard Days

Erika Cerda, Director of Employee Relations 

Today was a hard day.  

I’ve been saying that a lot lately. I feel unsettled, slightly outside of myself. Have you convinced yourself you have COVID-19 during an Oklahoma allergy attack yet? Just me? Are you super drained by all of the bright-siding and encouragement to use this time as a personal growth project? Confused about whether you really should avoid looking at your retirement accounts or whether you should refinance your mortgage? Desperate for the kids to start summer camp and for the babies to head back to daycare but also absolutely want a reason to keep them home? Are you staring at this in horror because you’re typically annoyed by how much I love standing on the tragic optimism soapbox?  

Me too, friends. As much as I desperately want to soak the goodness of this time in, I am feeling a bit oversoaked by the whole lot of it. I know so many of you are, too.  

We recently rolled out an Employee Care and Support initiative with resources for you and your families. I’m sorry that it took a global pandemic for us to get this in order. It’s here, and it’s on the Hub. We have also transitioned our HR related trainings to online offerings, including our newly launched Benefits series. Please let us know what we’re missing. I want to hear the things you’re thinking of today, but also the things you’ll be thinking of tomorrow and past the gauntlet we may be facing with this novel virus.  

Like everyone else, I don’t know what the future brings. What I do know is that we celebrate our 130th anniversary this year. I do know that we have some of the most all-in faculty, staff and student employees that make working here an easy choice. I do know that I have watched us weather uncertainty, budget cuts and enrollment decline with ridiculous perseverance. I do know that we are the real deal and that while this season is exhausting, it cannot take us out. 130 years from now, this pandemic will be a blip in our history. Students will read about it. Maybe it will get a mention during campus tours for new faculty and staff. People may chuckle about our very real hurdles with technology, or maybe people will still forget to put themselves on mute. 

Regardless, the work we are doing now is important. It is big and often heavy. I won’t diminish the very real struggle that we are facing, together while apart. This is a time full of barriers to the normal way we’ve done things. In a way, isn’t that great? I’ve always believed that innovation is best forged in fire. So, if the world is going to feel like it’s burning, the best we can do is take the moments where we have strength and forge the weapons we need to come out stronger on the other side. 

So be well and stay safe and enjoy this challenging or exciting or growth-oriented time. Or, just know that if you’re feeling a bit out of sorts and all over the place, you’re family. We’re here and we’re listening, so keep sharing all of it. Your voice in this matters. And if my tragic optimism can have the last word, I want everyone to remember that sometimes surviving is enough. We’re going to survive this; you are enough and you are not alone. 

Erika Cerda, Director of Employee Relations 

Erika Cerda joined UCO’s Human Resources team in 2015 and currently serves as the Director of Employee Relations. She supports a holistic approach to human resources but loves data-driven decisions almost as much as leadership podcasts and brunch. She may be best known as a shameless employment law nerd or for her endless book recommendations. If you’ve spent any time in her office or alongside her in the Starbucks line, you’ve likely heard her sales pitch about the importance of a high feedback culture and how well administered and interpreted personality assessments are her jam. 

Erika lives in Edmond with her husband and four growing boys.  


  • Gina Nee Dels

    I find myself being grateful for the moments I share with family. In this socially uncertain time, my family and extended family have put aside an hour same time every week to google hangout. We see each other and share stories. We find ourselves coming closer and finding humor. My family has knit together and made me grateful for the time we share.

    • Erika Cerda

      Gina, that’s a wonderful practice. I’m so glad that you’re getting to pour into these family relationships during this time.

  • Georgia Fiering

    Thank for this article, Erika! Very well said! Best to you and your sweet family!

  • Jimmy Young