Housing operations look for grad student after director leaves

The Office of Housing and Residence Life is operating without an associate director of housing operations after the former director left the college at the beginning of January. The college has not yet posted an application to hire someone else.

Former Senior Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life Seth Hodge left his position on Jan. 2, according to an automated reply from Hodge’s Emerson email. Hodge began working at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts as the Associate Dean of Student Affairs for the spring 2019 semester.

Olin College is considerably smaller than Emerson with an estimated incoming 2023 class of 84 students, according to its website. Emerson’s 2022 class consisted of about 900 students in fall 2018, according to the college’s website.

Hodge declined to comment.

Assistant Dean for Campus Life Elizabeth Ching-Bush said Hodge’s departure was a great professional opportunity for him and his career.

“It was a great time for him to go ahead and [take the position]. It was a great next step for him professionally,” Ching-Bush said.

Assistant Director of Housing Operations Kendra Stokes said transitions for jobs in higher education are best at the end of a semester or over the summer.

“It allows for a smooth transition for you as a professional and for those that work around you since you are closing out the fall semester and wrapping up assignments for the spring. It was an easy time to transition [Seth] out of the position and for Seth to transition into a new position elsewhere,” Stokes said.  

Without a director, Stokes takes the brunt of the office’s workload with tasks such as preparing for housing selection in the spring and incoming students in the fall.

“With Seth’s departure, it’s just making sure that none of those pieces get lost in translation. It’s re-scoping how I have looked at my day-to-day operations,” Stokes said.

Many of the housing operations have become easier to manage with StarRez, a housing software Emerson began using last year, according to Stokes.

“Of course, I have taken more on, but we are streamlining as much as possible [with StarRez],” Stokes said. “We are really fortunate at Emerson to have been investing in a housing software that helps orchestrate all of our processes.”

Instead of searching for a new director, the administration posted a job application online for a graduate student interested in working with housing operations. The hired student would learn how housing operations function at a college and earn a starting hourly wage of $15, according to the application. The application also states that the student must be a graduate student currently enrolled in a degree-granting program in higher education, student personnel, counseling, or a related field.

“Instead of jumping right back in and filling a position, we are able to give ourselves some time and evaluate roles, responsibilities, and the needs of the department and students,” Stokes said. “The graduate student gives us the opportunity to have an extra set of hands to work on projects while still giving us time to evaluate positions.”

The priority is to hire a graduate student before considering to fill Hodge’s former position as director, according to Ching-Bush.

“Right now we are focused on the grad student—we are looking to see how this semester goes,” Ching-Bush said. “We are looking at the future and what we might need or want to be happening.”

Stokes said now is the right time to pursue hiring a graduate student—though, in her more than two years of working at the college, she said she has never had one.

“We have had people reach out to us, but we haven’t had the right time to do that. Now is the right time, and we have the resources to have someone,” Stokes said.

Before working with StarRez, Stokes said she could only use the login to the housing operations system in her office. Now, she has the ability to program different levels of access on the software that would allow a graduate to perform certain tasks.

In addition to collaborative software, Stokes said she feels more comfortable having a graduate student as she has become more accustomed to the college.

“I have a bigger skill set and a better understanding of the Emerson community. I had students reach out my first semester here, and that is probably not the best time to take on a grad student—I was just learning my role myself,” Stokes said.

Housing operations will also receive assistance from two current residence directors, Desiree Bradford and LaKiyah Russell, who expressed interest in working more with housing in the spring. The RDs will be working on the promotion of housing selection, informational sessions for students, and other background tasks that occur in the office, according to Stokes.

In the fall, the office will need to fill more beds on campus with the scheduled opening of the Little Building. However, Stokes does not foresee any additional challenges in opening the building with the current staffing situation.

“Opening Little Building will be a normal operational challenge because it is a new building, but nothing beyond regular opening in the fall,” Stokes said.

Stokes expressed confidence that students would receive the same services from housing operations during a time of staff changes.

“The student experience with housing operations is not going to be impacted in any negative way due to staffing changes,” Stokes said. “This is a time for us to continue the good work that we do.”

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