Working for University Housing, which serves about 6,000 University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, means having to adapt to unanticipated situations, according to Tony Rathgeber.
So far, the 2018-19 school year has been no exception, as Housing has dealt with a couple of unexpected incidents. In December 2018, the longtime residence director of Schramm Hall died, and Smith Hall’s RD resigned in March.
Many Housing positions are interim arrangements, including Rathgeber’s position of associate director of Residence Life, Charlie Francis’s position as director of Housing Administration and Cassie Roth’s position of area coordinator for Abel, Sandoz and the Courtyards.
Housing has also been making big changes to student arrangements, like closing the doors of Neihardt Hall and moving the Honors Program to Knoll Residential Center in fall 2019.
“I’ve worked in housing since 2000, and I don’t know that there’s ever been a ‘normal’ semester,” Rathgeber said. “There are always unexpected things that come up, and that’s just part of what we do.”
He said there aren’t specific protocols for these unexpected situations because each one is so different. With a hiring process that takes two to three months, he said it didn’t make sense to try to fill the Smith RD position until the next school year.
Rathgeber said the team debated whether to fill the Schramm position that opened at the end of the fall semester but decided it would be too difficult to find someone.
“It’s a little tricky to hire someone halfway through an academic year because not a lot of people are searching for RD positions at that point,” he said. “Our applicant pools aren’t as strong when we try to do a mid-year hire.”
Francis said the spring is when housing staff goes to national conferences to meet candidates for the RD positions.
“It’s just a great opportunity to be able to visit with a lot of people that are interested in coming to your campus or working with you,” he said. “The timing now is much better to be able to get staff in and have the summer to get them trained and feeling good about what they’re doing.”
Graduate student Sabrina Guerra took over a majority of RD responsibilities at Smith, and Rathgeber said Rob Andrews has been stepping up a lot, too.
Rathgeber said Andrews started the academic year as the area coordinator of Abel, Sandoz and the Courtyards, and he added HSS to his duties when the complex lost its coordinator. Roth, Abel North RD, eventually took over.
Now, Andrews’ only title is area coordinator for HSS, but he is taking on some RD responsibilities while the positions are open.
“[Andrews] has been a really selfless, excellent team member and is always stepping up to a new challenge and helping us make sure we're focused on the work that we’re doing,” Rathgeber said.
Looking forward to next year, Rathgeber said Residence Life is hoping to fill all the RD positions and has already started interviewing candidates.
“I think the best thing about a new member joining the team is always that they can bring fresh perspectives,” he said. “They have different experiences, and it’s always great to have an injection of new ideas into what we do.”
In order to better serve students living on campus, Rathgeber said Residence Life is also focused on implementing its new residential curriculum program in the fall.
“The residential curriculum is something that we’re really excited about,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been thinking about for years, and we’re finally able to make it happen. So, there’s a lot of energy within our team and our department to take that big step forward.”
Despite all of the uncertainties, Rathgeber and Francis said the staff has bounced back because they understand the job comes with challenges and they’re committed to serving students.
“Our staff in Residence Life are outstanding professionals; they’re not afraid to roll up their sleeves and work hard,” Francis said. “It seems like if there’s a challenge there, people just rally around each other to have each other’s backs, to encourage, to help out.”