SEAHO Report - Summer 2021 - 30

FEATURE ARTICLES
Heart Work is Hard Work - But It's Worth It
Shanna Carmack, Carson-Newman University
If you are like me, you probably spent at least a little time this past year wondering what decisions led you to
be fully suited in personal protection equipment moving students' belongings across campus in the rain. In
2020-2021, housing and residence life saw employees leave in large numbers - and who could blame them? This
caused me to wonder, " Why do we stay? " I sat down with four excellent housing professionals to explore how
they thrived in 2020 and why they still work in housing after all we collectively experienced over the last year.
I spoke with Michelle Unger, a graduate student at UT Knoxville, who has just completed her first year as an
assistant hall director, Derian Hamblin, a residence director at Belmont University, who is entering her fifth year
in the entry-level role, Kimberlee Small just completed her fifth year in the middle management role of assistant
director at Rhodes College, and to round it out, Joe Mills, who has served in housing for 36 years and has the
acclaimed " slash " in his title: Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs/Director of Housing.
Mills shared that 10-15 years ago, encouraging young people to seek a career in residence life was an easy sell: go
to graduate school, live on campus, graduate with less debt. In the meantime, you will learn great people skills,
check students in and out of rooms, and throw some social programs. Nowadays, it's something he doesn't
often encourage. Residence life, particularly in 2020-2021, is more involved in academics, dining, and retention.
People consider us to be mental health experts and to be able to handle overall discipline problems. It's all been
thrown on us. Unger shared that several different departments would call upon residence life staff to check in
on students, " since we live there. " Small said, " Res Life already felt dumped on and it got worse. " Mills is still
committed to housing and residence life, but now he only encourages those who are vested, committed, and
excellent to continue in the field - the job will always be here, but it is not easy.
Each housing professional reflected on how difficult the job had been this past year, yet each also shared one
common theme: a sense of gratitude for the fantastic team around them. " I could give it my best this year
because my supervisor, Claire Chernowsky, poured into me, " Unger said. Hamblin considered how she felt
supported this year and shared:
" I felt supported because of the community of the staff we have here at Belmont. Doing it all together. We
have a big staff - 20 people. At one point we had 10 staff members in quarantine so other people took on
their responsibilities. We'd share responsibilities. We supported each other. We had open conversations with
the leadership in our office. Our leadership told us what they knew when they did. They acknowledged how
hard it was. They helped us, and we all did it together. "
Small agreed and added that sometimes her supervisor, Aretha Milligan, would randomly bring in their favorite
lunch or give out gift cards. Small shared it was those small actions that reminded her she wasn't in this alone.
One of the things that bothers Mills the most is communication, whether bad communication, ineffective
communication, or emails after hours. Mills shared that he had to reinvent and refine his communication this
year. Half of his team worked remotely one week while the other half were in the office and then flipped. Mills
had to ensure each staff member received the same message, effectively and quickly. Many staff meetings
became emails and other digital options. Organizations made of relationships need quality communication. " Bad
communication can destroy your organization. " Everyone agreed: having the information, even when it was bad,
helped them feel like a significant part of the team.
Much of how we are treated pours into how we treat others. We often learn supervision by being supervised. As
we all know too well, it wasn't just staff members who had a difficult year. Hamblin reflected, " Students also
had a challenging year and we need to help them recover and process what they experienced. I want to help
them do that - especially the RAs. " Hamblin shared she gave the RAs on her staff extra grace this year, knowing
it wasn't a normal year and being aware that different things were priorities this year. It was important to her
to keep the RAs motivated through encouragement and fun. Small, who served in a dual role this year as a case
manager as well, doubled down, saying Res Life really went back to the basics this year: " the ooey gooey res life
stuff fell to the wayside. " While Small was serving in a dual role, the RA staff at Rhodes supported each other,
knowing she was there when needed. Mills shared a rule he called goofy, but I loved: he encourages his staff not
to send emails after 4:30 PM. His staff know he is available by text or for a call, particularly for an emergency,
but he asks that they try not to send an email after business hours - it can all wait. Mills hopes this helps his
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Contents
SEAHO Report - Summer 2021 - 1
SEAHO Report - Summer 2021 - Contents
SEAHO Report - Summer 2021 - 3
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https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2024winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2023fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2023summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2023spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2023winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2022winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2021fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2021summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2021spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2021winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2020holiday
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2020fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2020spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2020winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2019fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2019summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2019spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2019winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2018fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2018summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2018spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2018winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2017summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2017spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2017winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2016fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2016summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2016spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2016winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2015fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2015summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2015spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2015winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2014fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2014spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2014winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/50thanniversary
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2013fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2013summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2013spring
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2013winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2012fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2012summer
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/2012winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/seaho/spring2011
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com