Center for Student Engagement to restructure residence hall staff

The Center for Student Engagement will reorganize its residence hall support system for the fall, charging graduate students with the daily duties of overseeing house staff.

House staff will directly report to graduate students in assistant community director positions. The graduate students will continue to be part-time CSE employees, picking up responsibilities like handling crises, mediating roommate conflicts and coordinating programming in residence halls.

In past years, these day-to-day tasks fell under the community director – a full-time CSE employee overseeing multiple residence halls.

The new structure will free up the community director’s time for a “big picture” approach to campus life that identifies issues and concerns by class year, Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller said.

“We need them to think less about one floor or one building and think more about the entire student population,” Miller said.

Previously, graduate students who lived in third and fourth year residence halls were called graduate fellows or house mentors, a position that has since morphed into assistant community director.

This fall will also mark the first time undergraduates are serving as house staff for upperclassmen. Juniors and seniors will now be placed in third and fourth year buildings so that students can better connect with house staff members that are closer in age, Miller said.

“There is a value to me of a sophomore house staff member going through at the same time as their residents and having that same experience.” Miller said. Starting in mid-January, the CSE also stepped up house staff members’ patrolling duties, requiring the student employees to spend an extra hour per week making rounds in their residence halls.

Before finalizing the age changes, he said the CSE fielded feedback from 33 returning house staff members – out of the 85 total – for next year. He said many staffers were excited to try out their new role working with third and fourth year students.

Miller added that the structure has been successfully piloted on the Mount Vernon Campus for the 18 months. House staff on that campus report directly to graduate fellows, who report to a campus-wide community director. The model leads to more communication between house staff members and graduate students because they are closer in age and have more relatable experiences, Miller said.

Multiple members of house staff declined to comment for this article, citing a contractual obligation not to speak to the media.

The CSE is fusing the titles of house proctors, which previously worked with freshmen, and house scholars, which served in all other buildings, to become house staff members across the board. The responsibilities for each role have always been largely the same, Miller said, but the separate names can be confusing for students.

Cassandra Chapel, the community director for Crawford and Madison halls, said the shift will give her an opportunity to see building-wide issues while having a larger presence in her residence halls during “walk-throughs,” which are weekly visits to buildings.

Instead of a floor-by-floor view, the community director can look at trends across buildings, like high stress at certain times.

Chapel said students could expect to see their community director more now that the position’s workload is lightened.

“It’s about adding that extra layer of mentorship – adding that extra layer of resource for undergraduates,” she said.

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