EDITOR’S NOTE: College Relations publishes a monthly series of news articles, features and Q&A interviews highlighting various departments on campus in an effort to assist the faculty and staff in gaining an increased awareness about and understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.
The July Q&A is with Austen Stephens, associate director of Housing and Residence Life.
Q: What are your duties as the associate director of Housing and Residence Life?
I oversee daily operations on two fronts: Residence Life staff – Resident Advisors (RAs) and Hall Directors – in each of the residence halls who work directly with students every day, as well as the housing office which tracks students’ room assignments, meal plans and handles billing.
Q: How many students, on average, live on campus and in how many buildings?
Chadron State houses an average of 900 students. Students are housed in one of nine buildings (including all three Eagle Ridge buildings) that vary significantly in location, size, age, and arrangement.
Q: What benefits entice students to live on campus for two, three or four years?
There are several factors that contribute to students living on campus their entire career at CSC. The relationships and experiences formed when living on campus are unique to the college experience. Many students appreciate that and don’t want to miss out by living off campus.
On-campus residents are closer to classes, food services, campus activities, and resources they access every day without the hassle of commuting to campus. There is also ample research that indicates living on campus is a positive factor in academic success and retention.
Although there is a perception that high costs are associated with campus housing nationally, Chadron State boasts highly competitive pricing and extremely spacious accommodations relative to other institutions. There are no hidden bills or utility costs to worry about each month, and all services are right at the students' fingertips.
Q: Could you explain the monthly programming Resident Advisors are responsible for?
RAs have set programming requirements to complete each semester, always with the option to put on more events at their discretion. The programs are derived from and planned based on student input and demand. Hall Directors are also responsible for programming in the residence halls and across campus.
Q: What other kinds of programming does your staff provide to help students adjust to life on campus?
It’s no secret that college students tend to get bored. This is where campus programming is vital. Thanks to joint efforts among Senate, CAB, and Residence Life Association (RLA), there should be ample activities each month. Many RAs are involved with Senate, the performing arts, and campus club events in addition to their RA responsibilities.
A couple of years ago, the Educational Series line of programs was added to the responsibilities of the Hall Directors. This is an effort to engage students in co-curricular learning outside the classroom. Programs include anything from tax preparation basics to changing a tire.
Q: Could you describe the collaborative efforts that contribute to Housing and Residence Life running smoothly?
We work closely with custodians and maintenance, who do an outstanding job keeping the residence halls and the rest of campus in clean and working order. The Information Technology department ensures building safety by managing EagleCard access and monitoring door scanners, as well as ensuring safe and efficient internet connections students enjoy in their rooms and throughout campus. The security team keeps our buildings, campus events, and parking lots safe and orderly.
Q: In what ways do your responsibilities change for summer camp residents vs. academic year residents?
Summer is significantly different than the spring and fall semesters. With our limited summer staff, we work hard to assist large summer camp populations, some with as many as 700, checked in quickly and efficiently so they can get settled in and enjoy their camp or conference.
In addition, camps generally coincide with several projects and tasks that need to be completed by Housing and Residence Life staff and the maintenance and custodial staff members. Major projects this summer include a new fire sprinkler system throughout Andrews Hall, new windows in the Edna Work Wing, and the shower renovation project in High Rise.
During the academic year, residents stay much longer than our summer guests. It is important to provide a safe and fun community for students to feel a sense of belonging away from home. RAs often underestimate the impact and importance they have on the floors/wings and within their buildings.
—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator