University News

ResLife expands community director program

The office now employs six community directors, the highest number in the program’s five years

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Office of Residential Life’s Community Directors program expanded this year to encompass new class-specific responsibilites complementing the University’s new housing model based on students’ grade levels.

ResLife brought on six community directors, two more than last year and the highest number ever, said Director of the Residential Experience Natalie Basil, adding that the growth in the number of CDs has come gradually over the past five years.

The program was created in fall 2008 to assist Residential Peer Leaders by placing non-student ResLife employees as residents in various housing communities. Prior to the program’s inception, RPLs received structured support only from Basil and graduate student employees of ResLife, Basil said.

The University’s new community housing model — implemented over the past two years as part of a $56 million housing overhaul — divided campus into distinct housing areas for each class year, The Herald previously reported. Three first-year housing areas, two sophomore housing areas and one upperclassman housing area were created, Basil said.

The CD program’s expansion assigns each of its employees to one of these designated community areas to ensure the University’s 130 RPLs receive supervision and assistance in developing a sense of community within residence halls, Basil said. CDs also coordinate with each other to decide how to best assist students in their communities, she added.

“The main goal was to get smaller staff sizes so that Community Directors could give individualized attention to the Residential Peer Leaders as they were developing and creating programs for their communities,” Basil said, adding that CDs also help dorm residents with crises or conflicts to ensure they continue to have “a fantastic experience” on campus.

ResLife plans to maintain the CD staff at six members — its target size since the program’s launch — and examine how the new model works, Basil said. All the new CDs have graduate degrees or the equivalent in higher education programs, as well as significant experience working with college students prior to coming to the University, Basil said.

“We’re part of the same communities we’re trying to help better,” said Annie Maselli, CD for Wriston Quad and the Main Campus.

Aris Mantopolos, CD for Andrews Hall, Miller Hall and Metcalf Hall, said he interned at the University’s summer program for high school students before assuming his role this year. Mantopolos’ internship sparked his interest in working with college students rather than high school students, he said, adding that his transition into the program was “seamless.”

An average of 25 RPLs comprise each community team, and ResLife reduced the ratio of CDs to RPLs this year to faciliate more one-on-one interaction and opportunities to better know students, Basil said.

Basil said ResLife does not force CDs to vacate their posts after a given time period but noted that ResLife employees in this type of program normally stay for four to five years.

James Reed ’09, CD for East Campus and Pembroke, said he worked as an RPL for three years when he was an undergraduate, a period coinciding with the start of the CD program. Reed continued to work in student residential programs at other institutions after graduating but returned to College Hill to help improve his alma mater’s residential experience, he said.

“It’s been great to really focus on the sophomore experience,” Reed said of his designated community. “I think that’s something we’ve lacked here at Brown in the past, so to be able to really support a specific group of students who are trying to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their time here and how they want to find their voice going forward has been amazing thus far.”

Students expressed mixed views on the effectiveness of the CD program over the past few years.

Stephanie Harris ’14, a former Minority Peer Counselor, said her CD supported her as an MPC, but the program lacked a strong connection to supporting individual students. “I would say that unless you’re an RPL or you have some kind of serious crisis, I have not personally seen CDs as a visible presence in the dorms,” Harris said.

Juhee Kwon ’14, who worked last year as a Women Peer Counselor, said her CD was a friendly and constructive resource but did not have a major day-to-day presence. “Because I didn’t have any major crises come up during my time as a WPC, he served as a backup supporter who I didn’t need to end up contacting,” she said.

ResLife’s overhaul of the CD program leaves potential for an improvement in students’ interactions with their CDs, given the new class year-specific focus of the program.

“Last year I struggled with my previous CD,” wrote Hanna McPhee ’14, a community assistant and WPC Representative, in an email to The Herald. McPhee wrote that she previously questioned the CD program’s relevance to students’ residential experiences.

“But now, having a CD I am so close with, I realize how important their role is in keeping the RPLs stable so we can help the community,” McPhee wrote. “They are also doing a great job of talking with residents one-on-one.”