Residential Advisors (RAs)gathered over bacon and French toast last Thursday morning to begin interview process for a candidate for the Division of Student Life’s newest position, Director of Student Programs and Support. Thursday’s candidate, Tarome J. Alford, is one of four candidates being considered for the newly-created position.
After the breakfast, there was chatter and murmured questions. The most notable for the RAs was, ‘How is this different from what Yolany [Gonell] did?’ Yolany Gonell was the briefly-tenured Director of Residential Life and Campus Activities. Rochelle Mason, Senior Associate Dean of Students and coordinator for the hiring process had this to say when asked what differentiates the position, “The different title and description specify some areas of focus as overseeing campus activities, orientation programs, and providing additional support to students in crisis and/or distress. We did not seek to rehire a Director of Residential Life & Campus Activities, but re-envisioned the model and developed this new position in response to changing student needs.”
Bethany Grubbs, Assistant Director of Office of Residential Life and Campus Activities, underscored Mason’s message saying, “We determined that having one position that both oversaw the RLCs and the campus activities was just too difficult to maintain,” adding, “It’s…too big a job when you’re directly supervising a team of six and you’re also in charge of all the campus activities.”
The position merges responsibilities that formerly fell under Grubbs’ purview with a new student support aspect in addition to carving out the obligation to support the Residential Life Coordinators as young professionals, and their supervision of the residential life team. The support aspect seeks to fulfill a need for a designated response coordinator for students in crisis. Previously, this responsibility would wholly fall to Senior Associate Dean of Students, Cesar Cervantes.
The goal of the position, according to the summary description issued by Dean Mason, states: “[The position] plays an integral role in student success and retention by managing a variety of complex programs and processes related to the overall student experience, including Campus Activities, [NSO], [WSO], support for students in crisis/distress, and special projects within the Student Life Division.”
In fewer words, one of the biggest goals this new position attempts to fulfill will be retention, the number of students who return to the college after their first year. The college has a relatively high retention rate, according to self-collected and reported data. The rate from 2015-16 was 96 percent.
Meaning, 96 percent of students return to CC after their freshman year. That compares to the national average of 61.1 percent, versus 86 percent at CU Boulder, and rates in the high nineties reported by the US News World & Report at other “National Liberal Arts Colleges.”
According to Grubbs, this new position will augment the “high-touch” approach the college brings towards our students saying, “…We seldom lose students [for the reasons] other institutions do. Like other institutions will lose students because [students are like] ‘I don’t know college might not be right for me’, or ‘I felt really lonely,’ ‘I didn’t feel connected,’ ‘it just didn’t work’… we tend not to lose students for those reasons because we’re able to identify those students and put into place systems of support.”
The position is likely to be filled by Half Block if not earlier. When asked about the longevity of the position, Grubbs’ answered, “We may have yet to see how it fully defines itself. I think it’s an opportunity to get someone highly qualified into the position and then we may spend a few years deciding what we think of it. And I think that’s kind of what happened with the Director of residential life and campus activities,” noting this was in no way a pilot position, but a quest to fulfill student need.