The job search was one of the most fabulous and fulfilling experiences of my life and made my 2014! Not only was I ready to put all of my hard work in graduate school to the test to find a job but I was also ready to turn a page in the storybook of my personal life. This year I found my first full time job in residence life! This year I married my husband and we adopted a handsome Labrador retriever. This year I gained more professional connections and opportunities than imaginable (Can you say conferences, associations, and committees?!). This year I got to learn much more than I had imagined in my job, my most memorable experience.
Eleven days after graduating with my Master’s degree I started working in residence life at a small private university. I had anticipated going into my job working on staffing and administration. However, less than one month into my position I was managing the campus occupancy of returning student housing applications as well. From my perspective, this meant reviewing the applications as they came in, managing vacancies, inputting room and meal plan information into our campus database, communicating what room placements had occurred, and ensuring students were billed properly – all without a computer system to do the dirty work for you.
It was not for a while into the tasks had I learned that this kind of work was typically reserved for mid-level professionals. In a way, that was the best experience for me, to not be limited based on my level in the field, but to be provided the opportunity to work with operations. Prior to my first role I worked on facilities for a year, making sure all maintenance requests were processed and closed as needed. The level of significance this serves to the student experience is astounding. Students want to know that they are cared for by the aesthetics of their living environment. I equated this experience just the same. Though I was just a person on the other end of a computer sending them their room assignment, I was also the person making sure a list of things did not go wrong: incorrect bill, non-preferred living space, wrong room, dirty room, or no room at all.
By the end of July it was time to pair first-year students with roommates. On our campus all first-years have a roommate, unless there is an extenuating circumstance that would provide exemption. Again, there was no computer system that allowed roommates to be chosen at random or to be matched based on the data in the housing application. The other Hall Director and I enjoyed a nice evening carefully selecting roommates. This hands-on experience allowed us to think more carefully about how decisions were made. Was it simply based on their study routine or were health habits a consideration? Does the potential for guests overnight make a difference from one student to another? This was by far the most challenging experience because in the five minutes or less we spent looking at one person, we had to decide if the person he/she was matched with was to be a good fit. This was especially important for first-year students who can be facing the toughest transition of their life.
So when I first started the job, one line on my job description read “Assist in developing/implementing housing lottery and assignments”. I understood the word assist to mean that I am in a committee or a day-of team that helps make it happen. In my first job I was taught how to manage the excel spreadsheets, accept that my email will never be at 1, email more than 500 students at a time, the greatness of mail merge, and so much more. I learned that it is really good to have a partner. In this case, it was my co-RHD. Coming in after me, she managed the applications for the first year students amazingly. At one point or another we were both new professionals tasked every morning with running a new report and making sure that students got assigned to rooms.
The next big thing on my to-do list for facilities and operations is room selection. Currently, I am outlining what that process will look like this year and am sure there will be amazing memories for me to document along the way. 2014 has been a tremendous growth year that I am proud to have experienced at the university I am currently at. I look forward to more memories in 2015 with such an amazing team!