For the past nine years, Kerri Dugan’s typical day as a University of Rhode Island housekeeper starts between 6 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., cleaning the second and third floors of Weldin Hall. On one of her not so typical days, she’s gone skydiving.
“I’ll try anything once,” said Dugan.
The first time she jumped out of an airplane, she did it in Newport. She recalls looking at the tiny plane’s dashboard and noticing the instrument panel labeled with printable label stickers. Situated on top of the dashboard was a little swaying hula girl.
“All I could think was, ‘Oh my god, you’ve got to be kidding me,’” she laughs. Dugan remembers being “scared as hell,” but has hopes she’ll go back and do it again next summer.
“I’m afraid of heights,” she admits, “but I just thought at the same time, ‘I have to do this.’”
A self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, Dugan has also gone bungee jumping twice, and hopes to go ziplining in the future.
“I’d love to do it in another country. It would be a great way to see it,” she said.
The philosophy to try everything once holds true for Dugan’s work, as she’s held various positions at several different jobs throughout her life, including restaurants and nursing homes before and during her job with URI. Her favorite job she’s ever held was at the South County Nursing Home in North Kingstown when she was 18.
“I understood at that age that I loved talking to older people,” Dugan said. “I loved learning history or about a specific person throughout their life. It’s the coolest thing ever, like a living history lesson.”
She remembers one particular woman the most out of all those she’s worked with. Her hands were always in restraints, and she used to call to Dugan all the time as she cleaned the woman’s room.
“I used to sing to her,” Dugan said. “Usually church hymns, like ‘Amazing Grace’. I would stop and ask her to keep singing for me because I forgot the words. Eventually I convinced her to sing for me, and even at that age, she had one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. Â It’s my best memory.”
After spending over 32 years in the restaurant business, Dugan thinks every college student should work in the restaurant business. She’s tried everything from bussing to waitressing to food prep, and “could fill a book” with her stories.
“You truly meet every walk of life, that’s what’s great about it. You learn something from everyone,” Dugan said. She also respects all the skills that working in such an environment can foster, including “multitasking, working with the public, and teamwork.”
Reflecting back on her life, Dugan feels she’s learned quite a few things.
“As you get older you learn what’s important,” Dugan said. “Anything you go through, with age comes what’s important. To keep it simple, your family is what’s important. Help people out, don’t turn your back on everyone. I think that’s big.”