Towers Talk is a WVU podcast featuring Residence Hall Coordinators Angela Delfine-Mechler and Patrick O’Donnell. Each week, the hosts bring you an interview with different members of the WVU community to help you get adjusted to your new campus home!

Join co-Hosts Angela Delfine-Mechler and Patrick O'Donnell as they wrap up the semester in their final episode for the fall season! Join this week to learn about their professional journey leading to WVU, their greatest accomplishments as Residence Life professionals, and their words of wisdom for their 19-year-old selves! Tune in this week and catch them again next semester when they bring you more interviews from members of the WVU Community!

Transcription: 

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Towers Talk. I'm Angela. And I’m Patrick. Welcome back to another week. Tower's Talk podcast is brought to you by Lyon and Braxton Towers. Towers. You can live anywhere, but when you're here, you're home. All right. So today, once again, we are going to do things a little differently.

This is our last episode of the fall 2020 semester. It's been weird and it's been fun. So today's episode is going to be a little bit unique for us. Yeah. So at some point in the semester Angela and I were talking about these episodes that we do, you know, as soon as the episodes end, by the way we just go, we just stay in the zoom and chat about them.

And at some point we realized that we did like the introduction episode at the beginning of the semester, but. Most of the questions that we ask are our guests. You all don't actually know about us. It's very true. So today we're going to interview each other. Uh, we're going to talk about our careers and residence life, how we got here, some of our crowning achievements and what advice we would give to our first year students, because we asked like everyone every week, what they would give.

Yeah, so we're gonna, we're gonna start off and you're going to get to finally know us. Yeah. We thought that this was a, an appropriate end to the semester. Alright. So, and tell us about how you got to where you are. So you know, how you became an orange, see how you like your like grad position that you did.

Um, if you were an RA, how you got that position, just tell us about, you know, your, how you got here. Yeah. So my journey to res life and student affairs has been a special one. Uh, since I was a young child, I thought it was going to be a teacher. I would play teacher with my dolls and my stuffed animals and was just obsessed with that.

And when I was in college, I was a secondary English ed major. And so I thought it would be teaching high school English, uh, at the time as well. I was an RA for my junior and senior years. We were prefects though, if you're a Harry Potter fan, we were called prefects at St. Vincent college where I went to undergrad.

And so I was a prefect for two years. Loved every minute of it. Um, fast forward to, um, the, oh gosh, what would that be? The spring of 2013, no fall of 2013. Um, I was student teaching. I was a super senior, so I graduated in May and was going back to finish the student teaching. Um, ended up quitting my student teaching and having a life crisis and, um, worked at a Barnes and noble and honestly, saying no to something that didn't bring me joy anymore.

I'm quitting the student teaching because I just, you know, it wasn't my thing. It was impacting my mental health, um, was, was one of the greatest things that I did for myself. Um, as someone who like. You know, definitely is type a, obviously picked up on tries to be a perfectionist. And so saying no and learning that it wasn't, my path was just really important to me.

And so I worked at a Barnes and noble. Um, if you have a weird Barnes and noble year in your career, totally all for it. Um, and what I mean by that is. Is sometimes we have to take time to do something else before finding what we're called to. So don't be ashamed of that. The job market is really hard.

It's okay to work in retail or do something else until you find what you love. So, um, you know, and, and during that time, um, I worked as an assistant hall director at my undergrad. And then I moved to being a full-time hall director, um, at St. Mary's college in Notre Dame, Indiana, which is now grill school for three years.

Um, so that's an RHC position. Uh, love that learned a lot, grew a lot working in an all-girls school, um, went to grad school after working professionally for three years. So I went to Indiana university of Pennsylvania. For a degree in student affairs and higher education. And as a grad, I worked at the university of Pittsburgh at Johnstown as an area coordinator for two years.

So essentially an RHC. Um, but while I was a grad student and then from there I got here and, um, you know, I'm, I'm really thankful to be here. Um, I've worked at so many different types of colleges and I've always worked at, you know, I've been Ms. Small private school. I went to one, I worked at one, but, um, I'm thankful that I ended up here and I'm challenging myself to grow in different ways, but also that I, I really love it here and love what I do at WVU.

So, Patrick, what about you? Tell me your story. First, um, before I get into that, uh, I imagine you like Emma Watson in the Harry Potter movie being like it's prefect, not perfect. My uncle Chrissy, we easily for a very long time in college. That's incredible. Um, ed, I've known you for a year and a half. We've been working together.

And I feel like, I didn't know a lot of that. That was, I mean, for me be like, cool. Yeah, thanks. Our stories are very similar and people are going to hear we're very alike. Um, and the last thing before I get into my answer is this is like this. These answers. I'm just going to use these for all my, any interview I do for rest of my life.

I just listen to this little podcast, this little spiel I give about my background. I'm not answering the questions anymore about tell us a little bit about yourself. All right. So how did I, what was my journey? Um, so fun fact in my undergrad experience at the university of Connecticut, um, I was not part of like normal student org.

Like I wasn't part of the community council or building council or area council. I wasn't in SGA. Uh, my very club for my first two and a half years in college was, um, the Yukon all-star step in dance team. So it was, this is a very little known fact about me. People do not know this, I don't bring this up and it's not like I'm ashamed or anything.

I just, honestly, it just kind of leaves my brain. Once I get to my junior year. Another very little known fact that the not even my own RAs know, um, which will, there'll be surprised to hear this maybe, and, and thinking about the butterfly effect of their, of their lives. Uh, I initially was going to say no to the RA job.

Uh, I'd applied for it my freshman year and got told no, no, thanks. Not good enough. Uh, good, better than I left next time. And then I applied my sophomore year and got named an alternate. So I was like, ah, okay, that's fine. Maybe I'll get hired during the summer. Didn't get hired during the summer. I was really happy.

My junior year I'd met all these people, all these friends, many of them came to my wedding last year. Um, many of them I'm really close with still. I met on that floor that year. Uh, I was living with my best friend and it was then that the universe decided to throw a wrench at me and say, Hey, actually, here's the job offer.

We want you to start in January. And my gut reaction was to say, no, this job I'd want it from the moment I stepped on campus. I was like, I don't want to do this anymore, actually. Um, I had a three hour conversation with my roommate at the time, Mark Jenkins, one of my best friends. And it was me saying, I'm not taking this job and moving out and him saying, you've wanted this from day one, you were taking this job and you are moving out.

Um, Mark won that argument. I took the job and now I've made a career out of it. Uh, so thanks Mark. Uh, you saved me from myself. Uh, I went to the, I went to college thinking I was gonna be a high school math teacher. That was why I went to college. Uh, I didn't get, I didn't succeed as a math major, so I thought English teacher instead.

And then I didn't get into the teaching program at Yukon. So I went to Towson university for a Master of Teaching, and I got a grad assistantship as the AC the assistant coordinator for TA Glen complex tower, D a w. Within like the first 10 minutes of my first class, I was like, oh my gosh, like, I don't want to be a teacher.

I don't want to do this. Like, all these people are so passionate and I do not have the same passion at all. I don't want to do this. Uh, it was a horrifying moment as I realized I was stuck in this Master of Teaching program, uh, because I loved my job, but I just like every week clicked for class after class.

I was like, I'm good at this. I got like straight A's, but I don't care about it. I'm not passionate. And I don't want to be a teacher. Um, so I did a master's major switch and moved into a Master of Business Administration, an MBA, and like, and spent three years as a grad, um, and got my MBA. And then I ended up at WVU.

Um, I knew somebody who knew somebody at the school, and so they encouraged me to apply. Um, and I interviewed, and I had a job. I've told people this story so many times I had a job offer on the table from Pitt, but they had taken like three weeks to get back to me. I interviewed with WVU on a Thursday.

And the last thing I did was I saw our, our executive director Trish than Donna. Uh, so I go into Tricia's office and I say, you know, Thank you for the interview. Thank you for the gifts. They gave me a little box of cookies on my way out. Uh, and I said, when can I expect to hear back? Because in my mind, I know I have this job offer.

So it's like this bargaining chip where I can be like, Oh, I have a job offer on the table. Like, you know, like, what do you guys got? And she was like, we're going to move as quick as we can on the candidates that we're serious about. And I was like, I honestly, I hear that a lot. I've heard that twice before.

So like how, when can I realistically expect to hear back? This is Thursday afternoon. She goes, we're going to call you on Monday afternoon. And I was like, Thank you. Ma'am you have a good day, goodbye printed out of her office. And I was like, oh my gosh, I'm going to get a job offer from that. Uh, and so just the how serious WVU was, how quick they were that told me, like everything I needed to know that they really wanted me here.

It wasn't dragged out. It wasn't like other schools who had just not. Talk to me and, you know, months. Uh, so I knew WB wanted me and I was that, that wanting to be wanted, drove me to accept the job offer. So I love that. Yeah. And I don't, I knew it was a little bit of your story, Patrick. I didn't know that like almost to a T.

So there are a couple of things that I have taken from your story. So once all of you education majors out there, we really respect and value you. So, um, even though, you know, our passion for being in the classroom, um, the high school classroom, I should say ended a little bit. Um, you know, I think that I still consider myself an educator and I think in our roles.

In ResLife, we still have that passion and calling to be educators. It just wasn't the type or, um, you know, the area. I love, love English still. I know Patrick and I both still write a lot. So, um, definitely find ways to live that passion. But to all you teachers out there, we gave you all the credit.

Because we definitely couldn't do it. And the second thing, um, to just put out there is, um, if you've ever applied for an RA position and not got hired, I also was rejected my sophomore year when I applied. So you're looking at two people who did not get an RA job right away, living this as our careers.

Um, and if, honestly, if you, um, if you're here at WVU and did knock the Aria position your first year and were super discouraged. I know I reached out to a couple of people last year and sat and told them that same story, um, because there's a lot to learn. And, um, that year in between, I grew a lot as a person, I studied abroad.

So, um, you know, hang in there and know that there's still a lot of value in the position. And, um, it may not be when you want to get the position, but you know, when you do get it. Um, you know, if you do get it, it's definitely meant to be in. You're going to learn a lot from that. I guess sometimes we need to be, um, rejected to, to grow and stretch ourselves one.

Absolutely. I'm going to get that ties into something I'm going to get into with our third question later on. So, all right. So. So our next question, what are some of your proudest achievements in your ResLife career? Just give us a few because knowing us, we could sit here and talk all day about this.

Yeah. They could talk a lot about this. So, um, man, uh, just going through like my highlight reel, not to like dive into a lot of them. I am going to talk about some of them more than I should. Um, so I was an RA at Yukon, uh, when the Sandy hook shooting happened and confronted a lot, like not confronted, but comfort it.

Some students who, who knew people that were there. And that happened, like when I, when I look back 20 years from now, 40 years from now, when I look back on my career in student affairs and in ResLife, you know, whether I climb the ladder or I move out of eventually, these are the things I remember. And that's like the first thing it was, you know, it was, uh, over a year and about a year into the job.

And that is like the first thing I remember is this, like, really impactful moment where my, my resident, Emily came to my door and she was sobbing and I, I hadn't even seen the news yet. So I just was like, okay, there's a lot of things that could be happening right now. And then just learning about all of it and helping her, like that's one of the first things that comes to mind.

Um, a couple of others, uh, I helped us student, uh, get help from. They're being domestically abused and they weren't like a resident. My building, it was a student who had lived with my, in my building previously. And this is at my last institution and we were just close and we were going to launch and I learned these things and I helped her to get the help that she needed.

So that, that sticks out as a fairly vivid memory. Um, helping when I, I was in, uh, AC for three years at Towson, and then as I was leaving my third year, I got a new boss. Who as a grad, I knew everything about the place. I knew all the staff, I knew everything. I helped her transition into the job. And then I came here, uh, and I had, I had a grad who he was in a similar boat.

Who'd been here, Ashley Thomas. She'd been here for like four years. And in my first year she helped me trans transition a lot. Um, some of the biggest ones last year, right before Halloween, we did just B U, which was, uh, an event where we gathered some of the, these really influential people at WVU to talk about toxic masculinity and healthy masculinity.

And, um, just like all these things, it was just really it's. I spent so much time on that event. Uh, and it was really, it was really good. We had like 90 people come, um, lots of positive feedback. So that was cool. Uh, getting into like the major ones, uh, again, not trying not to wait to take up too much time, but, uh, when I started at WVU.

I was the fourth RHC in four years. Okay. They had had a new one every year. So I mentioned, I had that grad Ashley who'd been here, who'd seen all of them and done all of it and just was sick of the, you know, the carousel, you know, the, just like the merry-go-round at different people that were in charge and running the building.

Um, and I told all the people in that room. All of my new RAs, all my returners, I will be here until you all graduate. And now I'm the only RDC in Braxton for the last four and a half years. And all of those staff have graduated. So I'm, I'm pretty proud of that. Um, our engineering LLC, uh, didn't exist before I started it and then had a really rough year.

And since then, thanks to Kristin and Mike, Bruce herself has really rebounded. And, um, you know, I'll remember that for a long time because after I'm gone, I'm gonna be curious about how the engineering LLC is doing and Braxton tower at WVU. Um, and the last thing that I think of as crowning achievement, I'm not going to say their name because they know exactly who they are.

Um, and, and I, and like our, our peers will tell you, like, if you can impact one student. Uh, then you'll have done your job. And I could say that about a lot. Um, but there's one in particular that I think about all the time in my career is at the end of my first year at Towson, the student came and interviewed for a job with me, and she talked about like wanting to have something to belong to.

She didn't really know why she was at that school. She didn't know what she was doing. And she was just, she was applying for the job to have a job, but she was really, she talked about wanting to find like a group of people that she could relate to essentially look. If we're friends, um, and this was a student that like had gotten in, you know, they'd been documented, they got in trouble, they make mistakes.

Um, And against better judgment. I hired them. I definitely shouldn't have, there were other, there were better candidates, but that what they said really spoke to me and I hired them and they turned into one of the, probably the best student employee I've ever had. And one of the best RAs I've ever had, uh, later on in her career, she worked for me for a year and then she was an RA for me for a year.

And then I left Talson. Um, and so. I like when I think 20 plus years from now, back on my time in higher ed in ResLife, I will think of that students specifically and many students, but that story specifically. Uh, so good, Patrick. I love it. Yeah. I think that I definitely agree. Well, one that program, your toxic masculinity program was phenomenal.

So, um, for those who missed it, I'm hoping that, you know, when COVID is over, maybe something, something can come to fruition again. Um, and definitely agree with you. Um, you know, with student impact, um, The, the students whose lives you've kind of shaped and informed and helped grow. Um, what you'll see with my answers soon, um, that's everything, you know, even if one person sticks out to you, that means the world, it means more than having like any amount of people to program, right?

Like, so I think that that defines success is, is if you impacted one person, you know, we did our job. Absolutely. So. Definitely for me, um, similar, very similar to movements. So, um, I think my first is that I've had the opportunity to mentor a lot of folks while they were RAs, but also past that point. So, um, a couple of my former RAs from Pitt Johnstown, I'll shout out to you, Molly and Luke.

Love you, mom loves you. Um, you know, I got them to get into this field. Um, so they're in my grad program at IUP right now. And, um, you know, there's definitely a reality to this field and that we don't get paid as much as some other people. So, um, when I have those conversations with people about doing what we do, um, I talk about the benefits, um, that.

That outweigh pay. So it's important to obviously like live a comfortable life. But I think that this is a very rewarding profession in that we get to be educators every day and teach those life lessons that maybe there isn't as much space for in the classroom anymore. And so, um, seeing them grow and, um, to learn to love this field.

And this profession just means a lot to me. Um, the other thing too, is that, um, you know, if you know me, I like to think I'm a pretty approachable person and I'm obviously a lot, I'm very charismatic, have a lot of energy. Um, but over the years, um, you know, including my time at St. Mary's. Pitch John's town here.

Um, I found myself being an individual and a safe resource that a lot of students have come to, to, um, you know, disclose things like a sexual assault or to come out as gay or BI, um, to me. And that means. The world to me that I was chosen as this person, that someone felt safe confiding in. Um, even though I'm not a confidential resource, um, for some things, um, you know, it meant a lot to me and means a lot to me when students feel comfortable coming to me, um, as that person.

Um, because I will, I will champion for my students. I will support. Um, and um, no matter what you share with me, I will, you know, love each and every one of my students and who you are as a person. Um, so that. That definitely has been. Um, just knowing that that impact and being that resource and person has meant a lot to me.

Um, definitely another one was working at an all-women’s institution. Um, I have always had like all guy friends, like mostly all guy friends. And so I was like, I can't do it. And I ended up at an all-girls school for three years and I. Loved it, it was so hard my first year. Um, I didn't have any friends. I moved to the state of Indiana with like nobody and, um, ended up finding some of my best friends and, uh, just growing into my own skin.

I learned so much confidence in who I am as a female leader, um, in this profession and then the world, um, I wouldn't be the person I am today without that experience. And, um, on top of that as well, I, um, became a green dot certified trainer, which is a, um, personal base violence and sexual assault prevention program.

And so I realized too that I have a lot of passion for that work. And so that's something I definitely hope to continue into the support and champion for while I'm here at WVU. My final thing is, is getting here, you know, getting to WVU, um, to, uh, you know, challenge myself to take on a role at a large public institution was a really big deal for me.

Um, I've worked at very small schools before this. And, um, I love every minute of it. I think we have so many challenges here, um, especially in times of COVID, but I'm really proud to work for WVU. I'm proud of the tradition. I'm proud of the school spirit that we have here. And, um, you know, despite this being the most challenging year of my career, Um, with COVID-19.

I think that this has challenged me to grow in really unique ways and to think outside the box, when it comes to being a support for my residents. And so, um, even though this year is really hard and sad sometimes because I can't just go hang out with students outside my office and drink coffee. Um, it’s challenged me in, in different ways.

And I think that even though we're all really burnt out, which I'm so burned out, I need like so much Christmas and holiday relaxation after this semester. Um, and I'm at Christmas fanatic for those who know me, my tree is up. You can't see my camera, but I do have three trees that are up. Um, and so even though I'm super burnt out, um, I know that I'm going to look back on.

Our time during COVID and look at how much I've grown as a professional. So that was a lot, and it was a little bit winded, but I'm very thankful. They're very excited to talk about ourselves. Hey, one thing I want to add, one thing I want to add, as you know, I didn’t also know this about you, is you said that you've always had like all guy friends.

I obviously have been the opposite in my entire life. I've always had more friends that are female than men, friends that are male PFS. Now this is why this, it just, everything is just making a lot more sense. Why we've always clicked. This is it does it totally does. All right. So our last question, which is the one that we end all of our interviews with, uh, I got this idea because, uh, one of the alternates that worked for me, no, Morgan Christian asked me this a couple of weeks ago.

So I'll answer first to give him some time to think. Um, but the question is. What advice would you give to your 19 year old version of yourself and why that advice? And so for the record, um, uh, and I don't actually state this publicly very often. My, I am out of my late twenties. I am 30. Uh, so what would I give my advice?

10 plus years ago when I was 19, when I was a freshman at Yukon. And so the advice I'd give is you are going to fail a lot. And just keep going. So I talked about, you know, I talked about the RA thing. I flat out rejection, no, uh, alternate position a year later, that was hard. Um, everything that I wanted at Yukon, I pretty much didn't get, uh, which was really hard.

I just kept, like, I, like, I went there for the education program. That was why I left Philadelphia to go to Storrs Connecticut, the middle of nowhere. Uh, cause they had a top 25 undergrad education program in the country. You leave in five years with your master's and they have like a hundred percent job placement.

Um, I got there and they're like all my friends, all the people that I knew, all the other students were like, they never get male applicants. Like you're a shoe and you don't even need to try. Um, and they do a group process interview and then an individual, and then you do it. The group is three people and they tell you, one of you will get an interview and the individual, they tell you one of our two people will get in.

Um, and I didn't get a group interview. And when I told somebody that my senior year, who was in the program, she laughed in my face. And I was like, no, seriously, I didn't. And she was like, I'm so sorry. I thought that was just something that they said to scare people. I didn't realize that people actually didn't get group interviews.

And I was like, yeah, I wasn't, it didn't happen for me. Um, the like number one leadership position at Yukon is orientation leader. Uh, it's really for stages. There's very few of them. It's a big deal. They get paid a lot. Um, And I applied for that. And my, like my application was impeccable. I knew my references were best friends with the person that would make, was making hiring decisions, uh, group interview, individual, uh, crushed the group interview individual.

I knew it. Wasn't good. I got called back for a second individual. And she told me she had never done that in her career, but she said on paper, I was perfect, but you know, my inner, my individual interview with her before had been terrible. And she told me that's in my face and she gave me another shot and I still didn't get the job.

Uh, so that was heartbreaking. And that happened around the same time as all the other stuff. Um, there was a lot, I ran for community council president one year and got destroyed in a landslide. And then in the election, like everything I ever wanted at an undergrad, I did not get. And so it's important to.

Not take it personally, and to keep pushing forward, to keep trying things and to keep going to not let it define you or destroy you because it is, life is so much bigger than that. Your time in college is so much bigger than that. Um, and just keep, if you want something, then keep going for it because that resiliency, that passion will show through.

Um, and for me eventually that meant getting the RA job and eventually making a career out of it. So that's the advice I'd give to 19 year olds. Oh, so good, Patrick. Yeah. I definitely looking at my life too. There's so much growth and failure. And at that time, you think that the world is ending, but like there's so much more in store.

So that, that kind of ties into my advice. I look at 19 year old, Angela, so I was the opposite. I was a Bibi. I started college when I was 17. So those of y'all who, you know, you're, FIRPA release your mom and dad get a letter every time that you do something wrong, like, cause you're under 18. And that was me too.

I didn't do anything wrong though. Correction. I've never been documented. Okay. I've been documented for an air freshener. I had a plug-in air freshener didn't know I wasn't allowed to have, so I'm sorry. Yeah, I, I was definitely, um, an awkward kid. And so I think that, I mean, shocker. No, but my advice to my 19 year old self, um, Angela at that time was very uncomfortable in her skin and didn't know who she was.

And, um, I think a lot of young females, we don't know our place. We don't have confidence. Um, you know, sometimes we're challenged by speaking up in the classroom and, and sometimes you get walks or like, Oh, do I sound stupid? Um, and that imposter syndrome really sinks in because the world tells us sometimes as women, that we can't do it or our opinions aren't as good.

And so, um, my advice in 19 year old Angela would be to, um, To challenge yourself to be more comfortable in your skin, but also to know that it gets better and that, um, you know, even when we're young and awkward and feel like, Oh my gosh, like, I don't know who I am. Um, You know, just, just stay strong and be true to yourself.

Right? Like I fully embrace that. I am a total weirdo and, um, you know, like Patrick, I'm pushing 30, I'm 28 now I turned 29 in December. So, um, I dealt that. It goes downhill when you turn 25. But I think in reality after I turned 25, I really, um, you know, as I got older, I'm very comfortable in my skin and.

Comfortable with who I am. And so, um, if you're going through that right now, just keep holding on to, um, who you are. Um, peer pressure is terrible. So, um, I know that we fall into that sometimes, but, um the more, you stay true to yourself, the older you get, the wiser you get you'll know that like just being real with who you are and embracing your weird, um, is going to be it's going to be very meaningful. And, um, it's definitely very freeing when you, you're confident in who you are and, and learn to really love yourself. So that's my advice to all my weirdos out there. Thanks so much. And I think we should change for the spring semester. Embrace your weird.

Yeah. I feel like that would be really catchy. I think people wouldn't really like, you know, maybe we'll see. Yeah. Anyway, thank you all. So much for tuning in this entire semester. We can't thank you enough for giving us your time and your ears. And for listening to us ramble a lot today, chat to us next semester when we interview more members of the WVU community.