Monday, May 04, 2009

What’s it like to be an…Assistant Dean of Residence Life?

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
Certain aspects of my job I perform almost daily, while other responsibilities are much more seasonal.  Regardless of the time of year, I meet with students and staff each day to work out issues of housing or to discuss a housing policy violation.  In addition, I am a liaison to other campus departments (Food service, Building services, Academic Services, and Admissions).  I have weekly interactions with these departments and represent the Residence Life Department in those meetings.  Finally, I supervise the Knollcrest East Apartments and the Area Coordinator position coordinating various student support and accountability services with the Dean of Students for Judicial Affairs.

In the summer, I help with roommate matching, assist with orientation programs, and prepare for opening the residence halls and apartments to students in the fall.  This includes helping with Resident Director and Residence Assistant training.  In the fall and winter, I teach a first year experience class, mentor the hall presidents, and review our policies and procedures.  In the spring I facilitate the room selection process for returning students in both the residence halls and apartments and help plan summer improvement projects.  All in all, it is not a boring job, and no two days are the same.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?

I taught sixth-grade science for 4 years prior to coming back to Calvin and worked for the Residence Life Department.  I have been a Resident Director in BHT and the Area Coordinator of the on-campus apartments before coming to my current job.
Adaptability and flexibility are two important traits I learned along the way.  Each position presented a learning experience for me, and I draw from those experiences in my current role.

What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?

I graduated from Calvin with an Elementary Education Degree and went to Western Michigan University for a Masters in Educational Leadership.  I am currently working on a PhD in Educational Leadership.  Look for classes, employment, and seminars that will stretch you in areas where you are currently weak.  I did not know a lot about designing and building on college campuses.  So when an internship at GVSU was offered,  I jumped on it and it was a valuable experience.  Find out aspects of the job that you are not as familiar with and then seek ways to educated yourself about them.   

What are the rewards in your position? Challenges? What makes a good day for you?
Seeing students grow is fun.  Seeing them succeed as people and in their careers and knowing you played a small role in their development is very rewarding.  It can be challenging realizing that you cannot make up for 18 years of habits and decisions with an hour-long conversation.  A good day consists of having good conversations and learning more about everyone you come in contact with. 

What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years?
Many students grow up with their own room and are used to all of the amenities of life.  Providing those amenities at college while still maintaining our college mission is a continual challenge.  Allowing students independence while still being part of a larger Christian Community is a never ending goal. 

How could a person find out more about your field?
By talking with their Resident Director or Resident Assistant or by attending a national or regional conference of Student Affairs Administrators (NASPA, ACPA, ACSD, etc.)

Can you suggest any careers which are similar to yours?
Other jobs in Student Affairs (Admissions Counselor, Orientation Leader, Student Activities, etc.) 

What obstacles have you overcome to get to where you are today?

I applied for quite a few Resident Director positions and was turned down.  I kept at it and finally was hired.

What was your first job like after college?
I taught elementary science in Lansing, Michigan.  I remember driving all around town taking pond water samples my second day on the job. 

Are there any web sites you would suggest for more information about your field?

How do your beliefs and values or worldview perspectives impact what you do at work?

God calls us to be faithful not successful.  It is our job to do the best we can each day and then give it to him.  It is important to treat others the way we want to be treated and not to take things that do not work out too personally.  You have to laugh at yourself and enjoy what you do!  People will work hard for money, harder for a person, but hardest for a reason.  Keep your motives pure and celebrate little successes along the way! 

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 05/04 at 02:24 PM

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