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!

This week, co-Hosts Angela Delfine and Patrick O'Donnell interview Residence Life Assistant Director, Johnny Kocher. Johnny has a number of roles, including captain in the U.S. Army, President of the Mid Atlantic Association of College and Housing Officers, and Advisor of multiple student organizations on campus. Johnny will also share a little about how he manages his time and why he loves being a cat dad!

Transcription: 

Welcome again to another episode of Towers Talk. I'm Angela. Welcome back. DTP is brought to you by Lyon and Braxton Towers. Towers. You can live anywhere, but when you're here, you're home. So today our guests, as one of our bosses, this is Johnny Kocher with us today. He is an assistant director in the office of residence life.

He was an RA and a grad RA at WVU. He met his wife there, who was also an RA on the Pierpont RA staff. He served as a conference service worker, a night staff, hourly worker. He was the night staff desk manager for Seneca. Prior to becoming an assistant director, Johnny was the RNC for Bennett Tower and Oakland Hall West.

Johnny is a captain in the U.S. army and serves as the commander of the Bravo Battery, 1-201 field artillery. Johnny also serves as the president of the Mid Atlantic Association of College and Housing Offices, MAACAH for short, and as an advisor for the Resident System Council, the National Residence Hall Honorary, and the Residence Hall Association. So welcome Johnny.

I’m impressed you're able to get all that in, in such a short period of time. Patrick, I appreciate that. Um, and you only made a few mistakes, so that's great. So I appreciate it, Patrick and Angela, thanks for in Miami to do this. Thank you for coming. Can you start by talking to us a little bit about each of your roles and how you manage the balance?

All of it. Okay. So as Patrick said, you know, I I'm currently serving as the assistant director of residence life and I oversee night staff operations. Student leadership groups and I provide support for our residential curriculum. And on top of that, you know, it was the president of the Mid-Atlantic Association of College and University Housing Officers.

And for the Student Affairs Profession. And I'm also the commanding officer of the local military unit here in Morgantown. So I have multiple different roles. There's another role that's not on there. I'm currently a student. So I'm working on my doctorate degree in higher ed while I'm doing that as well.

So, how do I balance, you know, all that I see that's a recurring theme. As I look ahead to some of the future questions on this list, and I probably should have asked how much time we have before I even start talking. Cause I'm already rambling. Like I tend to do. Um, but how, how do I balance these things?

It's not, it's not easy. It's not easy. I am extremely fortunate. Because each and every one of these things that I do, I believe makes a difference. You know, it makes a difference for people and makes a difference in this crazy world we live in. Um, so while I might not be the best at time management and balancing, um, when I, when I shift to one of these other different roles, I have.

You know, I'm able to, to motivate myself to know that I'm doing something meaningful and, and really it's about the people I have around me. You know, it's not like I have some trick I can share with you all, you know, about how to balance multiple different roles at the same time, which. That might be why you had me on here.

So I guess I should have told you that before, too. There is no magic trick to that. If you have good people around you and you have people that when you hit that brick wall, which even I hit, you know, that, that just mentally exhaustion where you need a break and you have good coworkers, you have people looking out for you and people who care about you and say, You know, Hey Johnny, you know, I know you just got back from military service or, or Johnny.

I know you have a lot going on with MAACAH right now or Johnny. I know you have a lot going on with the night staff. Hey. I'm going to take care of this for you. Go focus on that. That's something I've been doing to have throughout my entire career. Um, and, and I can just run down the list of names with people that have allowed me to do these, these just really rewarding things.

Um, and it's because of them that I'm here. Awesome. Thanks Johnny. Um, and just to tell, you know, our listeners, we chose Johnny because labor day is coming up and this episode is going to go live the day after. And, um, you know, as you can see, well here, uh, nobody works harder than Johnny. Um, you know, he does a lot for us.

He does a lot for our country for institution, and we just appreciate all that you do for us, Johnny. So you've been a student and professional here for a while now. Why did you decided to stick around? Like, what do you like about this community that has kept you here? Well, I'll, I'll give an answer that a lot of, um, a lot of native West Virginians will give when you talk to them about WVU.

But, uh, you know, I, I went to high school in West Virginia whatso County. Um, for those that, you know, know a little bit about the States. Um, very small town, very small high school, very small prospects, or doing anything with your life at all. Um, that that would be aside from coal mines, um, you know, pipeline work or, or, or drugs, you know, and, and, things like that. And not that there's anything wrong with those professions and not to fault the people that do fall into line, you know, with, you know, the drug use and that epidemic. But you know, that that's just reality in that small West Virginia town. And I was fortunate, very fortunate to get some state scholarships that allowed me to go to WVU.

Um, and I, I viewed it as a privilege because for us. You know, WVU was, was the pinnacle that this, this was the, the shining light in the state was, you know, this university where everyone that was trying to make their lives a little bit better, make their family's lives a little bit better. This is where you win.

So I got to come here. I was fortunate to stumble into the residence life type work fairly early one is a night staff worker. And then as an RA. So, you know, as I was gaining this education, Um, it was to be a teacher at the time. I wanted to be a teacher and teach in West Virginia to help out people. Um, I started to learn a little bit more about this student affairs field, um, and seeing as I progressed to my, my senior RA year and my grad or a year back when we had grad RAs, um, you know, I started to see.

Me coming in as freshmen, I saw freshmen coming in from small West Virginia. You know, they have the same anxieties I had, they had the same dreams. I had the aspirations to do better to, to make their lives better, to help their family, to go back and help their hometowns. And that's kinda when it all clicked for me was, you know, by working in student affairs, In residence life at West Virginia university, you know, I'm having the ability to make it could impact and just help even in the slightest bit.

Yeah. You know, the, these young students coming in on their way to bigger and better things and that, and that's why I've stayed because. You know, this is my state. Um, you know, these, these are my people and I see so much potential. Um, in, in the individuals, we have cycling through our residence halls every year that, you know, I just love being a part of it.

Um, I really do. And it's why I've stayed. I've not, I've not even applied at another school to work at another school. And I don't intend to either. That's awesome. Thanks so much for sharing that. So on a lighter note, one of Johnny's most important or roles that we have not mentioned yeah. Is that he is a cat dad.

And so can you tell us a little bit about your cat that's Johnny? Cause I know you're, you're real proud and like to talk about your children. Yeah. So I, I have three cats. And for the yard watching, you probably met most of them during training. You saw him on the zoom for anyone else. Um, you know, I, I, I do have three, three cats, my wife and I we're both know pretty big, big cat people, you know, growing up, I think you're just either become cat or dog people.

Um, and you might not be able to explain exactly how that happens, but. You know, there's a story behind all, all, all of my, you know, family as I call them. And, you know, each one of them, each one of them, you know, had a really rough life. So my wife's. Friend runs a humane society in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, and, and, and they, they give us a lot of, um, you know, photos and names of cats.

And that's where one of ours came from. Another one was a rescue that we adopted from back in Wetzel County. You know, another one was, uh, another rescue we've gotten. And, um, you know, I always like to share the example of James Kirk. Jim, we call him. Um, so he's our, he's our middle child. And, um, you know, he's a big, just a big gray cat, but, you know, he had been at the humane society that, you know, they, they were wondering, you know, whether he was ever find a hole and he had such a great personality though.

That they didn't put him in a cage. He had free reign of the entire place. And he was basically the mascot of the humane society. So he would come up and cuddle with people when they came in, he would help other people, other animals get adopted. He would help make these people find other pets because he would, you know, he, he would, you know, okay.

You know, it's humane society. There's this friendly cat here. That's, you know, warming me up. And, um, now, now there's these other, other pets we can look at. But no one would ever adopt him because even though he had this personality, um, he, he, he had been in an accident at some point when he was young, before the society took him in and it, his, um, his front Paul was mangled pretty bad.

Um, he has some trouble walking at times. So, you know, this wonderful creature that. You were seeing play an important role in other animals lives in people's lives and making connections there wasn't, you know, he, he, wasn't getting a chance to himself and that's where, you know, my wife and I stepped in and said, we're now w we want this guy right here.

Um, and, and that story is repeated for all of the cats I have, because, you know, um, You know, these animals, these sources of comfort that we all have, you know, they become part of a part of your family. And, um, there's a lot of, um, unfortunately pain and suffering out there, um, in that, you know, in that community.

And just like with everything else I do, if I can. If I can save one or two of those animals and give them a few years of a good life, I feel like, you know, I've done, I've done something good. And, um, and yeah, that's, that's not even close. I think what you asked me, but that's the story I gave you. So, um, you know, that's, that's my story about my cats.

That was a pipe, probably one of the best stories I've heard all day. So, uh, thanks for sharing that, Johnny. Yeah, thanks Johnny versus can say it, but Anne had real tears in her eyes as he was talking about Jim. So Johnny, you touched on this a little bit earlier about, you know, the first-year students that you would see as, as you grew, as you grew as a student, as you got older and the first-year students that would come in.

Um, so what words of wisdom do you have for our first-year students this year? Yeah, I've thought about this a lot and it's really developed over the years. Um, and I'm pretty. Saw the Lee solidly of the opinion that every first-year student needs to hear multiple times that, you know, it's okay. If you don't know what you're doing, it's okay.

If you're not exactly sure who you are, what your identity is, what your goals are, what your passions are. And that's perfectly natural. You're coming from, you know, all, all over the world. You're coming from small town, West Virginia, like my example, you know, from a different country, a different state, um, a different framework.

Um, everyone's coming in with identities that have been shaped by the experiences of, of high school. And everyone's, you know, parents, friends, peer groups, siblings, that that is what has shaped you. Up until your arrival here in Morgantown. And when you get here in Morgan town, you're not having those same individuals influencing who you are anymore.

So as you adjust to this new reality and you start to say. Hey, maybe this isn't an important aspect of my identity. Maybe I identify in this way. Maybe I'm a little bit confused on, you know, whether that be majors. You know, I always thought I wanted to be a biology professor and now I want to go towards engineering, um, you know, teaching to, you know, You know, arts, creative arts or something like that.

You know, those are all, all examples of what's going to occur and that's absolutely fine. And the same thing as it is about you yourself, you know, your education you get in the classroom is only one side of it. The rest of it is you're developing who you're going to be for the rest of your life. So do you hang around the same type of friends?

Um, do you identify in the same way based upon, you know, whether that be, um, any aspect of your identity out there of, okay, this is who I was before. I've questioned that. And now this is who I am now that's going to occur and it's going to be terrifying. It is going to be stressful and it is going to drain you mentally.

But. But that is one of the most rewarding aspects of the college experience. Um, as you go throughout that process in finding who you are going to be for the rest of your life, there are support networks here to help you along. You know, we have the mental health experts at the crew's center. We have our wonderful hall coordinators like Patrick and Angela here with their RA staff.

We have all these people around you to wear some of that. Identity development, some of those tough decisions, decisions you're making in that first year, you're not making the loan. You can rely on some guidance, some experiences, some support. That way you feel like, you know, you're able to step confidently into that sophomore year and say, Hey, I'm this much closer to defining my own internal self.

I'm this much closer to saying, I know for a fact, I want to be this. You know, at the conclusion of my degree program, first time freshmen, you know, be afraid of that process. Don't feel like you have failed because you are not exactly sure who you are, who you want to do. It's just part of the process and let us help you along with that process.

And we'll, we'll help you get you there. Awesome. Thanks so much for that, Johnny. That's great advice. So on top of this awesome advice and these words of wisdom, um, you know, it's obvious that you balance a lot on your plate at once. Can you give our listeners one piece of advice that you have when it comes to time management and how you make it all work?

It might be surprising to hear that I'm probably the worst person you would ever find at time management. Um, I was late for this meeting right here, this thing we're recording. Um, so, you know, I I'm, I'm terrible at it. Right. But the way I've started to view it, um, over the last couple of years, it's not so much time management as it is, is energy management.

If that makes sense, because for me, especially recently, you know, it doesn't matter if. Okay. I block off a good bit of time because I have some work I need to do, you know, as president of MACU or I block off amount of amount of time because I have some work I have to do, you know, as the assistant director here, it doesn't matter how much, uh, how much time that block is.

If I don't have the motivation and energy to jump into it, actually be productive and get things done. So what I've tried to really focus, focus on as of late is, is managing, you know, my, my motivation in my physical and emotional health. A lot more than I am managing my time. So even if it means I get a little bit more stress because something's being put off to the last minute.

I know. And this is terrible for me to say out loud, I guess, but I hope you can see where I'm going with this is, you know, okay. Maybe I procrastinated a little bit or getting something done. But I also know if I would have started it earlier. It would have been absolute trash work because I didn't, I wasn't at a good place mentally to sit down and do what, you know, do whatever I needed to do and still hold myself to the high standards I hold myself at.

So I think probably the correct answer is, is combining some of that advice. I just talked about there with. Good time management skills, because as I said, you know, when I was talking about first time freshmen, you know, this can be draining. Um, and I know there's many RAs, there's many residents out there that I've talked to that are balancing double the things that I'm bouncing right now on my plate.

And what I would say is the advice is yes. Plan it out. Yes. Try to get your work done early and spread it out, but also realize that that mental, emotional health. Is a, is a finite resource you have, and spread it out accordingly that way, when you're able to jump in and get work done during this whatever schedule it is, you're able to jump in and hold yourself to your own high standards of work and take care of yourself.

Because if you run yourself to the point where you just can't operate anymore, what good does it do to have a plan of how to get something done? One time on the first session of trying to get it done? You know, you were an emotional wreck, a mental wreck. Um, so balance that with the time management and I think you'll be in a pretty good place.

Awesome. Thank you so much, Johnny. I feel like we inundate our students all the time with the messaging about like start early, get ahead of things. But the reality is a lot of us still end up procrastinating this thing. So I think it's good to hear that you can do that and still be. Really successful in being able to manage everything.

So thanks for sharing that. And thank you for joining us this week. Really, really appreciate you having you spend your time with us and spend your energy with thanks. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me one. I enjoy talking with you and, um, Yeah, hit me back again sometime that's all our loyal listeners.

Thank you for joining us and join us next Tuesday for another episode of Towers Talk.