By BEN SEITZ-SITEK
An avid cook with a master’s in organization and development, Xavier Karjohn is the current RLC for the Western Ridge Apartments at Colorado College. When not on call, Karjohn enjoys traveling and taking advantage of Colorado’s outdoors. This week, The Catalyst sat down with Karjohn to discuss ResLife, travel, and next steps.
The Catalyst: What are the biggest misconceptions about ResLife?
Xavier Karjohn: I think you see the biggest misconception in that CC’s three-year living requirement is just here to take your money or that there’s no purpose for that. But I think CC has really structured its residential life curriculum in a way that enhances the student experience and really embeds more growth and development within each student to provide learning within the classroom but also without — So that three-year living requirement is actually really instrumental in student growth and development just because you could become more engaged or more enriched because you’re investing in your community and in your education while living here. So that three years is actually very important, while students I don’t think really see its importance.
TC: What is the funniest instance you have encountered during your time as an RLC?
XK: I think it’s the funniest now that it’s over, but at the time it wasn’t funny. We refer to it as “the 44.” It was my first incident — on Halloween my first year — and there is this large gathering in one of my apartments, and I handled it the best way I thought fit at the time — I took everybody’s ID and took pictures of all 44 IDs, and I thought I was doing a great job, and there was an easier way. And it was funny because it’s just like, that was just doing way too much and all I needed to do was take the four IDs of the residents of the room, but instead everyone was at the door and had to have their IDs and we took pictures one-by-one as people were going out; and so it was funny looking at it now that I know how to properly handle the situation. But that’s the one that I laugh at the most. But the funniest situation in general is that Loomis flood of our first year when the toilet screw popped out and hit Luis in the stomach and flooded out two stories; and I had the video of the water just running down the stairs and it was like the Titanic.
TC: How can CC work to become a more inclusive and diverse space?
XK: I think CC on the whole is more cutting edge and advanced than most institutions. But I do think there are practices that need to take place — from getting an assessment that should be really taken in by staff and faculty as they get hired just to see where they are and see what their growth plan needs to be. I think we can all present an idea of diversity and inclusiveness in our history when we interview, but I think there should probably be an assessment and a guided plan for every employee and every student here. So for employees, I think it’s part of that. Our orientation, our hiring process, should really talk more about that what that is, and I think everybody should be on a guided plan in terms of that way. I think the Worthington report talked about having someone on the board of director level that would oversee that. I think that would be a great addition and we can see that being successful across many universities and institutions across the nation. But I also think that really combating preconceived notions of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all of our first-year incoming classes right at orientation and really let them know, like, ‘Hey what you may know or perceive is not actually what is the reality, and so we’re going to teach you the truth, and CC will develop you to handle the truth and be the truth in your own right.’ But it may change what you think.
TC: As an RLC, you live on campus and you almost always have to be on. How do you balance work and personal life?
XK: I travel a lot. So we get vacation days and I, for the first time in life, have given myself permission to use them. And so I take an extended weekend at least once a month because I am a go-getter; I work hard; I often am told I do too much. I spend long hours in my office and so work-life balance is a struggle for me but I consider it treating myself and inspiring myself because travel is important. I’m in a very keen place in the mountains and in Colorado Springs where travel is cheap from Denver, and so I’m taking advantage of my opportunity here. So last year I planned to travel once a month. I actually think I did 16 trips. So that’s how I personally do it. And so like you guys having a break like Block Break every three and a half weeks, I do something similar.
TC: What was your Oscars best picture pick?
XK: So I did not watch the Oscars, but in saying that, I do have a Cinemax movie pass and so if there is a movie that is out that I think I’ll be really interested in I will go see it. So I am stuck between “Black Panther” and the movie with Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born.” Just because “Black Panther” didn’t make me cry but “A Star Is Born” made me bowl and I just love the music. But when I think about talent and all it takes to put together “Black Panther” and the additional intentional work of art and pieces and hiring and the commitments from the director. I think it takes more time and energy to put in a quality movie like that. So I think it would be probably “Black Panther.”
TC: If you could call any place in the world home right now, where would it be?
XK: Home would be Jamaica. That is where my family’s from. I was actually there last week. It just brings out an energy and a vibrance in me that excites me. I land and I just feel at peace. I don’t feel like I have to be someone else. I can just do what I want to do, go where I want to go, have fun. I have my connections down there. I’m just free — one with the ocean and the sun.
TC: What’s your favorite cooking show?
XK: I do like “Chopped.” I’ve been in two “Chopped” competitions, and I’ve of course won. They aren’t real competitions, but I did two in my undergraduate degree because I’m competitive. The first time I won and then the second time I was very keen on winning and so my team actually, they were just wanting to have fun, and I was like, ‘no we’re winning’ — and so at around two they walked off. And I was the single man team but I won and I still split the earnings with them. I think we got like candy or something. I was all about height at the time and so I melted chocolate and put it on top of a paper plate and then put it in the freezer. And so then I had the upside down bowl of chocolate to add the element of height. And I think it was like a chocolate salad or something or something chocolatey. That was my winning dish.
TC: What is the best advice you have ever received and who was it from?
XK: The best advice I have ever received was from Pearl Leonard-Rock actually. Pearl was actually the associate dean at my undergraduate institution, Edgewood College. She was like, be true to yourself and in the end you’ll find your happiness in your goals; and quit trying to make everybody else seem happy; and it’s OK to say no. Actually she said say ‘no, not that it’s OK.’ She said say no. Learn to say ‘no.’ And I think it’s hard because I’ve been a people pleaser all my life. And it’s hard to say no because sometimes it’s like rude, especially if an older person tells you. And culturally, with my family being Jamaican, saying no is disrespectful. But you have to give yourself grace and give yourself permission to do what’s best for you. You can’t take on everybody else’s worries. You can’t take on everybody else’s work or worth. And so saying no is allowing me to choose to be happy.
TC: Do you consider yourself a competitive person?
TC: Before this year, I would not say that I was competitive. But competition drives me; I like to win. I think I grew up not winning and always doing it on my own and so now that I’m more socially adept I want to win, and it pushes me. And I think my staff was very surprised by that because we went to Whirlyball and I was just like ‘We gotta win, we’re going to win, we gotta do this.’ They’re this like “Woah, you’re competitive” and I was like, “Yeah, I am.” Working for ResLife doesn’t really push you to be competitive, but it does push you to be creative. And so I always do things on the creative extreme which I guess indirectly is competitive with everyone else.
TC: What is your next step?
XK: Right now, I don’t know. My goal has always been to take care of my sister and make sure she graduates from college. And this summer she graduates with an R.N. from Berry. And so it’s actually my first time where I don’t have to be responsible for someone else besides myself. And so my next step is to enjoy me, be me, and enjoy the free time and the lack of pressure to be responsible for someone else. I do think I want to do something more corporate and something that is competitive and that can push me. I do know that it’s time for me to rise and shine and so I’m looking for something more challenging, more aggressive, more fast-paced, but I also want to be honest and be true to who I am with my values. So I don’t have a direct answer, but I know travel is in the future. I’m going on a cruise and that’s what I’m looking forward to.
TC: What advice would you give to current CC students?
XK: I think it’s important to take the time while you’re in college to really explore and see things — try things that are new to you and things that are not within your nature or what you grew up knowing. One of the craziest things I did was I went to the Broadmoor hotel for my birthday and just seeing and tasting things that I thought were gross was very educational for me just because I just didn’t grow up having shooting oysters or having cold crab and dipping it in butter. I love cooking and I do at least one blockly breaking bread with my community. And it is so different of all the creative ways I can plate and dish things. And just trying new things like, ‘Oh this is actually out there, or I see that on TV and it’s within reaching arms.’ CC does provide a lot of opportunity for you to challenge yourself and challenge those notions that you grew up knowing and not knowing, and so take advantage. Have fun. Enjoy.