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Victorious OCL Team Channels 1920s Bullfighter

Wonk Wars - Team Belmonte 2012

Team Belmonte celebrates before their win.

To the Victor

“To Belmonte!” was their call.

The words echoed over the Quad as the Campus Life team – Belmonte, Who is Truly Brave, and the Multicultural Cadre of Upper Tenley Proper – raised their hands as the winners of AU’s inaugural Wonk Wars.

The first annual team challenge saw staff members competing in everything from a cupcake bakeoff and scavenger hunt to participation in other Staff Appreciation Week events including Zumba, on-campus health screenings, and a volleyball tournament. In the end, of the seven teams competing, the entirely Office of Campus Life (OCL), six-member Belmonte group emerged on top.

“We definitely set the bar high,” says Team Belmonte's Soo Kim, scheduling coordinator in the University Center. “It’s a shame that it’s only once a year. It feels amazing to win.”

Kim kicked off Wonk Wars with a positive start for her team, earning second place for presentation of her bee-inspired, honey-citrus cakes in the cupcake bakeoff. Her teammates – Jenn Baron, Zach Pogue, Donald Curtis, Shelby Woods, and captain Patrick Bradley – were on hand to taste and support her efforts.

Baron, a resident director for Housing & Dining Programs, thinks the group’s spirit and camaraderie were what ultimately led Team Belmonte to victory, which earned the members tickets to both Six Flags and a Washington Nationals game.

“Everyone had the same goal in mind, which was not only to have fun but to excel in everything we could,” she says. “For everything we could control, we did great because we planned and executed. For anything we couldn’t, we had support and teammates there cheering each other on.”

All in a Name

Comprised of staff members representing a number of OCL departments from Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution Services to the Office of the Vice President, the team conquered last week’s events and challenges to earn a final score of 289 of a possible 315 points. Other teams featuring OCL members included the Psyche Wonk Wonks, Gail’s Angels, and Ladies First – who finished in second with 252 points.

Nicole Schoeb, assistant to the director of Disability Support Services, helped organize and oversee Wonk Wars alongside the University Center and Student Activities’ Clifton Johnson and Jonathon Sorge. She’s more than pleased with how the week turned out, particularly Thursday’s activities, which included the volleyball tournament, a barbeque lunch on the Quad, and the crowning of the first-ever Wonk Wars winners.

“The team excitement was really good, especially the last day. Seeing teams get into it was really good,” she explains. Of Team Belmonte, she says, “They did a wonderful job. They represented OCL fabulously.”

The team’s name, celebrating the courage of a famous Spanish bullfighter of the 1910s and 20s, helped set the group apart and gain them notice across campus.

“I definitely think it was a call to arms, a rallying device,” says Pogue, the Campus Life web developer who made a strong showing for the team in the staff volleyball tournament.

Curtis, operations coordinator for the Center for Community Engagement & Service and creator of the team title, hopes both the name and the win will leave a lasting mark on the university community.

“I feel like our name, Belmonte and the Multicultural Cadre, will ring out loud amongst the crowd, and when they hear our names, a raw thunder will emerge from the audience as they stand and clap a strong applause,” he says. Like Pogue, Curtis believes the moniker set a tone for the team’s performance. “Astute and ready for battle, that’s how we stood.”

Heart Center

Aside from the thrill of the win, Team Belmonte appreciates Wonk Wars and the week as something that makes AU a great place to be for those who are passionate about supporting students.

“The fact that AU offers Staff Appreciation Week and events like Wonk Wars is a positive reason why people stay here and there are so many folks who get multiple years of service here at AU,” says Pogue, noting the Staff Years of Service and Performance Awards presented last week, which recognized Curtis with the 2012 Diversity Award.

At its heart, however, Wonk Wars captures what it is to work at a student-centered institution like AU, where staff members from various disciplines and areas strive to produce the best possible programs, services and environment on campus.

For Baron, the teamwork brought on by the events and challenges have reminded her why she loves AU.

“For me, it represents my experience here at AU, which has been one that’s been very collaborative,” she says. “It’s very easy to feel motivated working with people all across campus in a way that connects our work to a great mission.”

With that in mind, the team – now close from the time spent together – hopes to gather again next year and rally under the same cry that propelled them to victory.

“To Belmonte!” they say. This is their call.