Staff Focus: Craft Master Heather Cipu

When she’s not working in the Office of Student Financial Assistance, Ms. Cipu flexes her artistic muscles in theater projects.

Heather Cipu shows off some of her displays in the Office of Student Financial Assistance.
January 25, 2016
By Julyssa Lopez
Heather Cipu, B.A. ’05, is best known for her work in the Office of Student Financial Assistance, where she answers queries from parents and students and helps 
Associate Vice President Dan Small. But throughout the last five years, she’s also gained a reputation as a theater lover who knows how to wield creative wonders—just hand her some cardboard and hot glue. 
It’s a hidden talent that usually rears its head during the university’s holiday decorating contest. Ms. Cipu has wowed office visitors by designing full set-like installations on the third floor of Rice Hall. She cut out paper figurines of Jack Skellington and his ragdoll love Sally Shock for a “Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed scene in 2013.  The following holiday season, she crafted a full display inspired by “A Muppet Christmas Carol.”
This year was all about Star Wars. Ms. Cipu stocked up on tissue paper and mounted little models of Hans Solo, Darth Vader and the rest of the Episode VII crew. She even painted a beach ball, transforming it to a makeshift Death Star. Her creativity won the office a victory—and the golden doorknob award—at GW’s holiday party this December. 
“The Star Wars decoration added to the holiday spirit in our office, and many staff members throughout the university came to see the great job Heather did, which opened up conversations with our colleagues from other departments,” Mr. Small said. “It was a great way to bring the community together.”
Ms. Cipu’s crafty nature comes from her interest in theater and set design, which sprouted when she was an undergraduate at GW. She participated in student-run theater groups and tried every role the stage offered: She acted, directed, built sets, made costumes. After graduating, she began volunteering with theaters around D.C.
Now she devotes her free time to community groups in the area, such as the St. Mark’s players on Capitol Hill. She also co-founded a company with her friend, Alexis Truitt, called the Fat and Greasy Citizens Brigade, and they put on free outdoor Shakespeare plays in the summer. Her involvement ranges with each show, but most often she’s called upon to lend her expertise as an artistic designer for different productions. 
Ms. Cipu says some of her colleagues in the Office of Student Financial Assistance have become familiar with her love for theater production. They’ve helped her create door decorations during past university contests, or they’ve spotted the remnants of holiday displays perched on top of her cubicle. 
“The people who don’t know about my extracurriculars, they’re like ‘Oh wow, you did that?’” she laughs. “They seem to enjoy it.”
Ms. Cipu is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public administration and says she eventually wants a career that combines both the arts and higher education. Her time at the Office of Student Financial Assistance has given her a backstage look at how financial assistance makes higher education goals possible. 
“I’ve definitely found working in financial aid great experiences in terms of where I’m hoping to get to in my future career,” she said. “Hopefully, when I’ve finished my master’s, I would still promote higher education, but maybe it would from more of an arts standpoint.”