November 10, 2011

In Barton, an Employee Finds Joy in Returning Lost Items

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Since Vildana Nuhodzic became head of the Cornell University Police Lost and Found Office in 2006, the system has been dramatically modernized, she says. Nuhodzic takes pictures of each of the 100 to 300 found items that come in daily and uploads them into a computer system, which students can check to see if their items have resurfaced.

“I tried to organize, first of all, everything that you can keep track of. Because when you have 5,000 items, you can’t keep in your head where something is,” she said. “Last year, we improved very well, because we [now] take pictures of everything. That was my plan.”

Nuhodzic explained that the computer system was necessary because students and visitors did not provide sufficiently accurate descriptions of their missing belongings in the past.

According to Nuhodzic, the numbers of items that find their way to the office has increased since she started working. While the numbers vary, at least 3,000 items come into the office annually, she said.

“We have tried to improve [the system] for students and visitors, because it is your property. Sometimes we find stuff that is very expensive and … very sentimental,” she said.

The Lost and Found Office typically receives the most items after a large event, such as a concert in Barton Hall, Nuhodzic said. When Nuhodzic arrives at work on Monday mornings, she said, she first needs to clear the room to find the floor underneath all the newly found items that were turned in over the weekend.

She explained that the Lost and Found room becomes crowded quickly, because the CUPD encourages buildings with temporary Lost and Found areas to bring found items to Barton Hall.

Originally from Bosnia, Nuhodzic came to the United States during the Bosnian war in 1999 out of concern for her two children. Nuhodzic became head of the Cornell Lost and Found in 2006 after she lost her job at Cornell’s Wilson Synchrotron Laboratory, she said.

“Cornell is a multicultural environment with so many different things happening. I feel like I’m at home in such a unique place with natural beauty, where your soul can enjoy and develop,” Nuhodzic said.

Cornell’s diversity is also reflected in the items brought to the Lost and Found, Nuhodzic said.

“There are so many things. … It is between us and the owner. The story has to stay here. I have pleasure to enjoy and laugh,” she said.

After a period of time, the items must be removed from the Lost and Found to create more space for incoming items, Nuhodzic said. Every item valued under $20 is saved for three months, every item between $20 and $100 is saved for six months and everything more expensive than $100 is kept for one year. After that, the items are sold in one of two auctions each year, which occur in November and in April in Barton Hall.

Nuhodzic said she attributes the high number of found items to the fast-paced lives of Cornell students and visitors.

“After working here and talking with people of any age group, I really realize that it’s just this crazy cycle of life, and even if something is very important and sentimental, it’s so easy to lose,” she said. “When you analyze their stories, you see they are stressed or hurried to do certain things, and it just happens.”

The best part of the job, Nuhodzic said, is the joy she feels when people reunite with their missing items.

“When people come here to visit, and they lose something and I have it for them, they say ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,’ because [the item] is sentimental. That’s charming,” Nuhodzic said. “We try to do our best to help everybody.”

Nuhodzic added she finds her work so satisfying that she plans to publicly share her experiences after she retires.

“When I retire, I probably will write a story about the Lost and Found — definitely a very interesting job,” she said. “For now, every day is unique, and it comes with a lot of work that is paid off by the happy faces of people who are lucky to find their belongings. Their reactions are priceless.”

Original Author: Rachel Rabinowitz