The office of Residential Life is kicking off the spring semester with a long to-do list. Along with day-to-day operations dealing with student issues, conducting programming and doing regular administrative work, the office has begun a search for a new director, has implemented changes to the newly acquired City Vista apartment complex and is making preparations for a new housing assignment software system.
With the departure of Melissa Flowers, former director of Residential Life, at the end of last semester, David Tuttle, dean of students, has taken over the position in the interim. Tuttle is no stranger to juggling the two positions, having served as both dean of students and director of residential life for over 10 years. However, Tuttle admits the two positions, while rewarding, are not easy.
“It’s stressful because now I remember how much work Residential Life is. It’s such a broad area and the issues and the work just keeps coming. Not to me, per say, but to the department, and so there’s a lot going on,” Tuttle said. “On the flipside, it’s one of the most dynamic departments on campus and the staff is great. They have a focused mission, and they work hard, and they’re a lot of fun. I’m enjoying it tremendously, but it’s a little stressful.”
Despite having held both positions for a substantial time, Tuttle is not interested in reprising his role as director of Residential Life for any longer than necessary.
“I didn’t have grey hair when I held both positions,” Tuttle said. “In order to give that department the focus it needs, it needs a full-time director, and in order to give my work the attention that it needs — dealing with student issues and parent assistance and things like that — it needs total focus. And that’s pretty typical to have a director of ResLife and a dean of students.”
The search for a new director of Residential Life has already began, with a search committee gearing up to conduct its first round of interviews via Skype. Stephanie Ackerman, assistant director for housing operations, is a part of the committee.
“The typical hiring process for higher education is a June 1 start date, so we’re aiming for that,” Ackerman said.
Tuttle has more ambitious goals, though he says they will search until they find the best candidate for the position.
“I mean, I would like somebody to start next month, but that’s unrealistic. It would be great for us to get somebody this spring to jump in and help set things in motion,” Tuttle said. “We’ll keep the search going until we know we’ve found the best person and the best match for us, for the department and for the campus.”
As the search for a new director progresses, the office is also preparing for the implementation of a new software system that will allow students to sign up for housing remotely, which means no more trips to the Witt Center to choose a room. Lisa Chapa, housing assignment coordinator, has been active on the project.
“The program is called The Housing Director (THD) and will allow students to make online room reservations for next year,” Chapa wrote in an email interview. “We are excited about this program, as it will streamline the reservation process for students. The program is pretty intuitive once students get started, and we are hopeful that the new process will be an easy transition for students who have become accustomed to coming into the Witt Center to pick their room.”
Since the system is new, the Residential Life staff will be sending emails and instructions to students and will be hosting information sessions prior to housing application deadlines. Ackerman explained the reasons behind the change.
“We’re just catching up a little bit. At a lot of universities, you choose your dorm room from your bed. We’ve been doing that on paper, and a lot of that was to get that face-to-face interaction with students, so they can come see the floor plans we have laid out and ask all the questions they’ve had,” Ackerman said. “We’re finding that students would just rather stay in their bed and not have to come in during our business hours.”
As for alternative campus housing, the office of Residential Life has been handling changes with the management of the City Vista apartment complex. Earlier this semester, student residents of the complex complained of inefficient waste pickup.
For reasons that Ackerman attributes to cost, the administration has decided to switch companies that handle the building’s waste management service. Capital Waste Management had been in charge of City Vista’s waste management, but GCA Services Group, which serves the rest of campus, has been newly assigned to the building.
“Capital Waste Management was already here when we got here, so we just kept that for the comfort of our students. It worked out, but it’s just more cost-effective in the long term for the university to absorb the costs the way it does on main campus,” Ackerman said. “We’re in a bit of a transition period, so I think GCA is still getting used to the day-to-day operations and the picking up of trash.”
Despite all that seems to be going on, Ackerman claims this is nothing new.
“I’ve been here about two and a half years now, and one thing I’ve learned is that there are always changes in ResLife,” Ackerman said.
While the duties of Residential Life are many, Tuttle stresses that the department is full of great people who are all apt to handle whatever comes their way.
“It’s a quality staff and they work really hard, and it’s a pleasure to be working with them and alongside them as they implement these things and as we get ready for a new person to come in,” Tuttle said.