By Brooke Schultz
The mid-year changes to staff in the Office of Student Engagement and Residential Life has shifted responsibilities to other members and departments on campus coming into the spring semester.
Nick Spicer, former director of student engagement, has accepted a position as dean of students at Susquehanna University. Alexis Heppler, former assistant director of student engagement, also accepted a position elsewhere. David Stuebing, former assistant director of Residential Life, accepted the position of director of Residential Life at Wesleyan College.
Spicer’s and Heppler’s responsibilities have turned over to Dr. Jean-Pierre Laurenceau-Medina, assistant dean of students and director of Intercultural Affairs, and Candace Wannamaker, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, along with support from Sarah Feyerherm, vice president and dean of students for Student Affairs, and Laura Wilson, special projects coordinator.
Wannamaker said that they’ll be posting both jobs nationally, and are hopeful the positions will be filled by June.
“There’s a lot of things going on until we fill [the positions],” she said. “For the moment, Jean-Pierre and I are both working with [Student Events Board] and the Greek system. He’ll take on the majority of that responsibility. I’m more the transition person for him. He’s newer to [the student engagement] area; he’s going to take the leadership role.”
Wannamaker said that, when Spicer announced his departure, she and Feyerherm had discussed incorporating student engagement into the Office of Intercultural Affairs to combine “engagement and inclusion” and make “more purposeful programming.”
Spicer and Heppler were advisers to SEB and Wannamaker said that their departure will not have an effect on SEB-planned events, including Birthday Ball.
“We’re in such good shape. SEB is such an incredible student organization,” she said. “Their committee has everything ironed out. We have a couple last contracts to sign. Jean-Pierre is working with Rahel [Rosner, vice president for Finance and Administration], Laura Wilson, and Pam Price [executive administrative assistant to vice president for finance and administration].”
Spicer said that he was excited for his new role and opportunity at Susquehanna University.
“I am, however, extremely sad to leave WC which has been my home for the last two-and-a-half years,” he said. “One of the most rewarding things for me in that time has been to see the growth of SEB.”
In Residential Life, Ursula Herz, director, and Amy Sine, assistant director, have split Stuebing’s responsibilities and have placed some projects on the backburner for the time being, Herz said.
Resident Assistants still report to their Resident Area Directors. RADs now all report to Sine.
If a student has a problem, RAs remain the students’ first step, but Herz said that any problem can be directed to Sine or herself.
“With two people, it’s easy to collaborate and communicate with each other,” she said.
With Stuebing’s position now open, Herz said that they plan to restructure the department to be more consistent with a “standard Residential Life model.” Stuebing’s vacated role will be split into two area coordinator positions.
“These are professional, live-in staff. They are similar in that respect to RADs, except they are full-time, they either [have a] master’s degree or are seeking a master’s degree in higher education,” she said. “Just having a full-time staff member in the halls has a significant impact.”
This, then, truly allows Sine to act as an assistant director, Herz said, because, “Right now, she’s functioning as that and an area coordinator.”
Herz said that it is a “multi-year process” and the ultimate goal is to have one area coordinator for every 300 students, in addition to the assistant director and director of the department. This enables more high, daily contact between students and Residential Life staff.
Adding those additional positions is dependent upon enrollment and budget, Herz said, so they are only posting the two area coordinator positions now.
“Our hope is to actually bring on at least one of them as soon as possible,” she said. “We would have that person working in the first-year area. They would actually work at the same time as the current RADs. That would allow them to focus on learning—because it’s a lot—also working with us, right away, on the first-year [housing] assignments.”
Looking at her time with Stuebing, Herz said that she had wanted to prepare him for a larger role.
“In Residential Life—area coordinators [is] a position you’re not expected to be in for more than four/five years; you move on,” she said. “Because he had had multiple supervisors, there was no plan to give him professional development.”
Herz started him on tasks and projects to give him experience and including him in discussions that a director typically handles. She and Sine even helped coach him with the interviews.
“It was exciting; all that work to get him ready paid off,” she said. “We [Sine and I] know it was going to give us extra work, but it was an opportunity he had to take. We were supporting him. … In our job, we’re here to develop students, but we’re also here to develop our staff and when you see that happen, it is really great.”
When Stuebing began applying in the fall, he said he wasn’t intending to get a job—just to see what was out there and hone his interview skills. When the position at Wesleyan opened, however, it “seemed too good an opportunity to pass up,” he said.
“This position met a lot of criteria I wanted,” he said. “It gave me an opportunity to supervise staff, it gave me an opportunity to take a group of people and see how can we focus our efforts and build solid programs. [This model is] moving in the same directions I was interested in, meaning a curriculum model for Resident Assistants. … It didn’t hurt that my wife and I love the Virginia Beach area.”
Stuebing said that this “curriculum model” looks “intentionally at how we serve the students, how we support the students and prepare them for life” and builds that into the RA structure.
His time at WC, he said, prepared him for that.
“WC has undergone a fair amount of transition over the past six-and-a-half years—transition of presidents and VPs of Student Affairs, directors of Residential Life,” he said. “With all of that, I had an opportunity to be a central part of developing the RA training and standards. What did we want from them, what did we expect? We kept improving the quality of the RA team. We kept expecting more professionalism from them. We stepped it up a bit more and saw some great progress from the students. Seeing the ways we were able to move things gave me confidence I could do more.”