News, University News

Two directors step down from ResLife

Michelly Peña, Richard Hilton step down to pursue opportunities at other institutions

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Senior Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives Michelly Peña and Associate Director for Operations Richard Hilton both stepped down from their ResLife positions earlier this semester.

Two directors in the Office of Residential Life resigned earlier this semester, following a year of high employee turnover in the office.

Both Senior Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives Michelly Peña and Associate Director for Operations Richard Hilton received and accepted promotional opportunities at other institutions, wrote Senior Director of Residential Education and Operations Melissa Flowers in an email to The Herald.

“When you have talented staff, sometimes they will have meaningful opportunities to forward their careers,” wrote Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes in an email to The Herald. “In these two recent cases, staff are leaving for great opportunities.”

Peña was appointed ResLife’s inaugural Senior Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives September 2018, according to the Office’s website. Flowers will take over Peña’s duties during the search for a new Senior Associate Director, including project management and communication in ResLife’s Departmental Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, Flowers wrote. Peña will return to her previous institution, the University at Albany, to do student conduct work. She and Hilton were not available for interviews.

Hilton worked with ResLife since August 2007, according to his LinkedIn profile. His duties, which will now be split amongst many staff members, included managing off-campus housing permissions and overseeing summer renovations, Flowers wrote.

Both Hilton’s position and Peña’s position will be filled by mid-June, Flowers wrote. ResLife will also hire a Director of Residential Education, a new position that will be the Associate Director of Programs “re-imagined,” she added. “The Director for Residential Education will be responsible for directing and managing the residential experience, placing an emphasis on health and wellness, inclusive communities and … growth and development of the residential students,” Flowers wrote. Other duties will include supervising ResLife’s community directors, she added.

The creation of the Director of Residential Education position originated from recommendations made by three senior residential life administrators from other institutions in an external review of ResLife, which evaluated the Office’s current systems and structures. The external review, the final report of which will be issued in a few weeks, was an effort by ResLife to address a lack of administrative support perceived by staff, Flowers wrote. ResLife struggled with understaffing this fall following the resignations of three community directors and Associate Director of Programs Kate Tompkins, all of whom left in response to an understaffed work environment, The Herald previously reported. Former Associate Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students Mary Grace Almandrez, who supervised ResLife and other offices, also resigned in October, The Herald previously reported.

There are now six Community Directors currently listed on the Office of Residential Life website.

Neither Peña nor Hilton cited understaffing in their resignation letters as a reason for their departure, Flowers wrote.

Flowers maintained ResLife’s commitment to providing a comfortable and beneficial housing experience for students.

“Students will always be at the forefront of what we do, and I feel we have done a great job at proactively setting priorities so as to avoid shortfalls in service or impacts to the student experience,” Flowers wrote. “I am confident that we will be able to identify short and long-term goals to ensure the department is adequately staffed to move forward its core mission.”