By: LESLIE LESTINSKY
Tell our readers a little bit about your college experience: I grew up in Michigan and did my undergrad at Central Michigan University, double majoring in English and communication. I was also a resident assistant there and interned at our student life office. I really enjoyed working with students in leadership development and didn’t realize you could do that as a career. I then went on to graduate school in Minnesota. I was a graduate hall director at Mankato State University. I supervised a residence hall and resident assistants. From there, I became a full time residence hall director at the University of Wisconsin. I also worked as a university coordinator at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
How did you find yourself in the position of Director of Student Life here at IU South Bend? The previous director of housing here was a resident assistant with me in college. He needed someone to fill in for him as he was taking doctoral courses. I filled in for a few weeks and then this position became vacant. I was asked by the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at that time if I would fill that position for a bit as well. I agreed and really began to enjoy it, which led to applying for the position full time, and here I am.
What does a typical workday in this position look like for you? There is always something new. I say a lot, “I never thought as a director of student life I would be – fill in the blank.” For instance, recently I was looking up how to clean whistles for our intramural sports, or how to properly store hot dogs, working with the concession stands or researching Roman armor for our Titan mascot. Who would’ve thought? On a typical day I respond to a lot of email. I try to respond as best I can. Students should know, if I don’t respond to their email, it’s ok to email me again, I will get back to you. I really have to split my time since I work in several areas. I work with Titan Productions, student government, intramural sports, Greek life and all our clubs and organizations as well as working with students.
What has been one of your more rewarding moments working here with students? That’s a tough question, because there are so many rewarding moments getting to work with students directly and getting to watch them achieve their goals. Going with groups on alternative spring break trips, seeing our students graduate and seeing them through on their journey, just helping our students to be successful have all been rewarding. We have students who are so motivated, talented and skilled. Night at the Apollo is one of my favorite events.
What are some of your goals for this position, personal career goals? I would really like to develop a leadership conference for our student officers in our clubs here. I’d like to increase community service and volunteerism as well. Our students typically reside in the area and stay in the area after they graduate. They are the community, so being involved in community service here is unique in that you are serving the community you live in and plan to stay in. The challenge is, our students also typically work while going to school, so finding the time for students to do that is difficult. My hope is to help them find a way to get involved while in school so that it becomes habit and as they graduate and move on and find more free time, they can easily continue community service efforts.
Do you have big plans for spring break? I will be catching up on work. I’m working on a student handbook for clubs and organizations and some other projects.
What are you reading, watching and listening to right now? I have been watching a lot of “Friends” on Netflix. I am re-reading “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” by Mark Twain and “The Science of Interstellar,” By Kip Thorne. I enjoy it, but it’s challenging. I am listening to Dvorak Symphony number 9 and the Decembrist’s new album.
What are some words of wisdom you have for our student readers? Get involved. Get out of your comfort zone, and try something new. Go to a program you might not otherwise go to. Play an intramural sport for fun. Get involved in an academic club. All these things will make you more prepared and adaptable.