Full-time hall directors hope to make residence life easier for students

Posted October 9, 2017

Freshmen aren’t the only new residents in Crabtree Hall this fall. Liz Brunner, who is in her first year as one of the new full-time hall directors at UWRF, welcomed students to their new living quarters in September.

“I like her she’s nice,” Crabtree resident Sarah Decorsey said.  “She’s involved which I like.”

Hired this year as part of a new Residence Life staffing model, Brunner has made it a goal for herself to get to know the names and faces of all 250 freshmen living in the hall.

The seven newly hired professional hall director, replace nine graduate student hall directors, a number of undergraduate assistant hall directors, complex directors and area coordinators who previously oversaw the 11 residence halls on campus.

Graduate hall directors were part of a partner program with UW-La Crosse in which students complete a full-time student affairs administration graduate program over the course of two years in person at UWRF and online with UW-La Crosse staff while serving as interns at UWRF in Student Affairs and Residence Life.

“You think about, you’re a grad student, you’ve got a paper due tomorrow, you’re in class and there’s a student in crisis. You’re torn, right?” Karla Thoennes, director of residence life, said. “You’ve got to either go do your coursework, or you go take care of the student in crisis.”

Thoennes hopes that hiring professional staff who can focus on the job will be beneficial to students.

Thoennes said that in truth, the graduate student hall directors were only able to do their jobs part-time because they were in school full-time and in addition to that, had to do a job that requires full-time attention.

Three graduate students still serve as support staff for full-time resident hall directors on campus in Ames and South Fork Suites, Grimm and McMillan halls and May and Stratton halls.

Since the graduate hall directors came on, all but three assistant hall directors and complex directors positions were eliminated, this freed up money in the residence life budget to allow for the hiring of the new full-time hall directors.

An extra $145,000 was needed to make ends meet and cover everything including benefits for these positions.

All of this was done without raising user fees, or what students pay to live in the dorms, which is where residence life gets its budget.

According to the residence life website, “Hall Directors are compensated with an annual salary of $35,000 for a 12-month appointment along with a comprehensive fringe benefit package including full coverage for family health insurance and retirement plan. They also receive a meal plan, one parking pass, and partially furnished on-campus apartment.”

Graduate student hall directors were paid a salary of $13,124, according to Thoennes.

Such a subtle change might go unnoticed by students if they don’t have experience navigating the many layers of the old staffing model, haven’t needed to contact their hall director for anything or if they don’t see an increase in the amount they are paying.

“I doubt they would know so much of changes,” said Temi Abiodun, a resident assistant (RA) in Hathorn Hall. “If you’re not an RA you wouldn’t know too much of what’s going on inside Res Life.”

The changes may not be so obvious to students who are just getting settled in their new homes.

Abiodun is in her second year as a resident assistant and said it is still early in the school year, but she sees changes already.

“One thing I would say is there’s more time available with (the hall directors). They’re always at their office if you need them,” she said. “(Last year) you would just probably see them at meetings or if they wanted to talk.”

Both Abiodun and Brunner said they are excited for the new model.

“It’s really the time that we’re able to dedicate to our students, our student staff, people like our RAs, our desk assistants, our hall council,” Brunner said. “The amount of time I’m able to put into them because I’m not balancing school and that’s what we’re doing as a department. I think (that) has been the biggest change and the one I’m most excited about.”