New strategies bring new energy to staff

Gannon University takes on a new tactic for students living on campus through the Office of Residence Life building.

The change of name to Residence Life was in the works before Denise Golden, director of Residence Life, arrived at Gannon.

Gannon wants to move more toward “industry standards” – a name that everyone could recognize and know exactly what it meant — and was fully committed after she arrived, Golden said.

The Office of Residence Life has not drastically changed its policies, but it did make more of an effort toward the way it approaches problems.

“We’ve trained and developed our staff to be more caring and understanding, which is the most important thing,” Golden said.

While overseeing the student development areas of Residence Life, Kathleen Gausman, associate vice president of student development and Engagement, also covers student organizations, commuter affairs, Student Government Association, etc.

“We are trying to make more opportunities for the students and working even harder with the residence directors and residence adviser to create a good learning environment,” Gausman said.

The main goal of this transformation is to get students to live on campus, Golden said.

“The way we will do that is to have them experience a real community setting,” Golden said. “We want them to feel connected.”

The whole approach is to engage students in Gannon, so the staff who are helping the students must be engaged as well.

“We’re providing transparent leadership through the staff, making sure they are informed on our policies,” Golden said.

All resident directors are full-time professional staff members who hold a master’s degree and also a background in student affairs.

Student affairs can be anything from working in a multicultural office to working for Student Development and Engagement, Carolyn Pitcairn, resident director of Harborview , said.

Pitcairn started working at Gannon last year as the resident director of Wehrle Hall.

“Training is often multifaceted and does not focus on one thing in particular,” Pitcairn said. “I feel that training has prepared me for anything that might come up in Residence Life this year.”

The most important change Golden wants to see done this year is that the students enjoy their living experience – whether it be on or off campus – and they are even more actively engaged.

“I hope our entire division can help take it to the next level,” Golden said.

With the new style in gear, Gausman has noticed a positive change.

“There’s a refreshed energy in the air and a lot of collaborating is going on,” Gausman said.

The most challenging obstacle that Residence Life has come by so far is getting the staff up to where they need to be, work harder and do a “mind reset,” Golden said,

It’s exciting, but difficult because there will be more effort put into our work, Golden said. However to Golden, that’s the fun part.

“I feel like everyone has their place at a university and making sure they strive for their best every day,” Golden said. “I want this program to be an open dialogue between staff and all students – on or off campus.”

Golden has only been at Gannon for three months, but is excited to be here.

“Gannon definitely ‘fit the bill’ for my next place to be,” Golden said.

Pitcairn’s communication between staff and students is an integral part of Gannon University’s mission – fostering an environment of leadership, inclusiveness and social responsibility – and believes this new style is just another mark of possibilities.

The Student Development and Engagement and Residence Life are both up for any ideas that people may have to change their residence living.

“We really hope that students feel like this is their home and we could create the experiences that they want – within reason,” Gausman said.

 

COLLEEN LANGHAM

[email protected]