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 Angela Delfine-Mechler and Patrick O'Donnell as they interview Dr. Chris MacDonald, the Executive Director of Housing at WVU. Dr. MacDonald will share some information about hall closing for this semester and will share some words of wisdom with students. Tune in here!

Transcription:

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Towers Talk. I'm Angela . And I’m Patrick. Welcome back to another week. The Towers Talk podcast is brought to you by Lyon, Bennett and Braxton Towers. Towers. You can live anywhere, but when you're here, you're home. All right folks.

Today we are joined by Dr. Christopher McDonald, the executive director of Housing here at WVU. Dr. McDonald, or as we call him, Dr. Mac, uh, is not mine. Angela is direct supervisor. He was at one point for me, at least not for Angela. And we still work really closely with him within our roles as RHCs so welcome Dr. Mac. Hi, thank you for having me.

All right. So the first question we have is can you share a little bit about your educational background and how you ended up here at WVU? Well, this is a long points, potentially complicated question. So I'll, I'll try to keep it brief. As an interesting note, I actually went to three different undergraduate institutions.

Um, I started off at George Mason, spent a little time at the University of Vermont and then ended my undergraduate career at Appalachian state university in Boone. North Carolina stayed there, um, for my master's degree. My student affairs experience, there was so significant that I chose to make this a profession I'd been geared up to be a teacher or lawyer, and was actually going to do a fellowship at wake forest.

And then I just decided I wanted to do student affairs and app was one of the best places to do it. So there, I had a pretty strong watershed experience as a residence director, as a graduate student. And. I just stayed in residence life for years. Uh, after that, um, spent some time at Loyola in Maryland and then spent a long time at Virginia tech.

Um, more than 11 years just run 11 years there. Uh, and while I was there, I began my, my, uh, my doctorate work. And then prior to completing my doctoral work, I actually went to Georgia, um, and served as the executive director for university housing there, uh, completed my doctoral work while I was there, which was a fun challenge.

And. Um, was there for about five years until coming here back in 2016, uh, which brought me back to Appalachia, um, to the mountains that I love and to have this phenomenal institution at WVU. Awesome. I have a quick sidebar story about Dr. Mack and how I knew a little bit about him before I started working for him at WVU.

Sorry, Andrew. I know this isn't part of our plan and I love, I know you love so much when I do these, these random sites. Yeah. So my last, at my, as everybody that listens to our episodes now, um, WVU has a residential curriculum model for how we engage our students. We've talked about that a bunch of times on these episodes and the last job I had at my last school at Towson university.

Was summer of 16. They asked me to do like, you know, research other schools and curriculum models because they had just finished their first year under it. And they want it to be able to find similar schools to compare themselves, to, um, without going to RCI. And so I looked up all these schools that I could find on the internet about what their curriculum models were.

And I do this presentation the week that I'm leaving. The last thing I do for them. And I talk about. Georgia Southern university. And I was like, their information is all public and on the internet. And they are the model. Like, whatever you all want to do, like, this is what you should build it off of. Like everything that I could read, it was like really, really enthralling.

And I was like, this is awesome. Like they really have this and I can, I'll never forget the, my supervisor at the time who ended up being the officiant at my wedding, Jason, he said to me, Um, well, that's great. I'm glad to hear that. That's so well, because he's your new boss and we're going to be calling you to ask for more help since you're going to be working for him.

So I don't think I've ever told you that story, Dr. Matt, but you know, it's decided to save it for this moment specifically. That's great. That's great. No, that was, that was good work, um, that we did there and we started it while I was there. Cause I'm, uh, I am a believer in it. Um, and I know you all have been working really hard, uh, to integrating that approach here.

Um, I was glad that we started that here, so, no, I think that's a fantastic story. Fantastic story. Thanks for sharing that, Patrick. No problem. Awesome. So Dr. Mack, we know this year, obviously it's been a tough, I guess, for lack of a better word with COVID, it's been many things. Uh, what do you think went well in housing and the residence halls, despite these challenges during the pandemic?

Well, not to be overly broad, but we're here. You know, that alone tells me that we've done well. You know, a lot of institutions, uh, made some tough decisions to, to limit occupancy, to limit access, uh, and the on-campus experience. And despite some of the challenges in those that we even, we knew we had to face, which were, you know, restricted movements, visitation, all of those things we knew that was going to be a challenge.

But our students have done such a fantastic job in response to that and even more. So I think those that work within the halls and leadership did some really, we back in my day called yeoman's work, really worked hard in trying to adapt to, okay, how do we create a sense of place? How do we create the sense of belonging, knowing that everything is different?

And I will never say that it's still hasn't been a challenge. And I would also probably argue that it definitely hasn't been. To the level that we would normally want, um, with obvious reasons, but I think folks have done a great job. Um, I think that even though there were some times in the fall, as we managed a lot with our contact tracing the testing and the quarantine process and all of those things, um, and the isolation and the movement, our students have been incredibly responsive to that.

Um, and they've been part of the. Process part of the solution, part of the program to make sure that we can keep going, you know, in the middle of the fall, we had, um, some pretty high numbers relative to where we are now. And I think just the mere fact that I can sit here and tell you that I have the lowest numbers in the spring.

We've had the lowest numbers of those students in quarantine and in isolation says that our students responded, even though it might've been a challenge to the expectations that we were getting from health guidance. They responded. They've been able to create their experience, um, and manage themselves to the point where we haven't stayed at this really high level of exposure.

Um, and this really high level of positives, uh, throughout the academic year, to me, I think that's a Testament to how hard people have worked, um, and how well the students who respond to. So to me, that is a success. That is what has gone well. Um, and when you also think that our students have spent more time, you know, we like to joke.

And say you will spend, and it's actual real. You will spend more time in the residence halls and you'll spend in a classroom while you're a student you're living on campus. That has never been more true obviously than this year. And our students have been in these spaces. Um, and I think probably feel in some ways more connected to their immediate environment and students have even in the past.

So I think there's ways for us to try and really garner what that means to them. And how do we. How do we turn that into some positive efforts for us in the coming year or in coming years? What can we learn from this experience? And I think our students, because everybody's experienced it are going to be great resources for us, uh, to make sure that we continue to move forward.

So those are just a few things I think went well. I, I Marvel at the fact that we've been able to have colleagues across the country who have had to do different models and had different challenges. Um, and when you think of some that we've faced and that are on the way our students have responded, I've been nothing, but I'm amazed.

And without sounding contrary or bias or even patronizing, I've been proud of the way our students who've responded. I could not agree with you more. Um, and I think that, um, you know, we've, we've done really well to navigate the challenges and, um, shout out to our RAs always. Uh, you know, I think Patrick and I do those probably maybe every episode, but I think that, um, you know, the artist has done a really great job with trying to navigate, you know, building our communities when it's.

It seems almost impossible. Um, you know, during a pandemic and I know it's been so challenging for them and so exhausting. So, um, just wanting to give them a shout out and thank them for their efforts as well for just doing their absolute best and, um, making things work during this. So thank you for that.

I think, um, one other thing that's going really well and I think deserve some note is how. Our facilities group has responded. And when you think about the extended expectations of. Point cleaning a touch touchpoint cleaning and just the constant, um, sanitation and putting that, that our lack of positives is as much a result of their mitigating places of potential infection.

Um, they're, um, taking care of these spaces and their costs and oversight of that and being responsive. Um, the FA the fact that we put a lot of things in suite bathrooms, even, um, I know Towers, we don't. Have suites by, you know, why we've done that through the rest of campus. Um, and our, some of our suite spaces and they've just been, and they've been hit with times when half of their team would be on quarantine based off of a positive.

And so people have had to shuffle from all different parts of campus to try and make sure that we kept up and I've been really impressed with them, um, and their tenacity, um, and trying to make sure that our students are able to stay healthy, stay in place, and even more than anything, stay on campus. Yes.

They've, they've been phenomenal. Everyone should go. Thank your facilities workers right now. If you see them in the way. Awesome. Dr. Mack move out for the ho Paul's is coming up pretty quickly, you know, by the time this episode airs, you know, it could be, you know, a week or two weeks before final exams start.

Um, so students are going to be moving out real soon. Um, can you explain what the move prof move out process is going to look like for our students? Sure. I think in a lot of ways that it looks similar to what they might've experienced in December, um, with, uh, Obvious exceptions that they're actually moving all of their items out.

We know a lot of students like to take a good portion of their belonging, some with them over break anyway. Um, but this is going to look a little different where, um, when they moved in, in August, we have this extended moving period and we had appointments, um, the natural progression of final exams, um, on over a weeklong period kind of sets us up for a natural.

Progression. And so there won't be appointments, uh, for checkout. Um, we have put out a survey, um, just to ask students when their intended time of departure and that kind of helps us game plan, uh, some of the traffic, um, so move out, we'll look in many ways like it has in the past with some obvious exceptions, um, we will continue with our cart management program and that's where those nice red cards that people utilize.

Not for closing day, we'll stay aligned and sanitize through the move out process this year. Um, we are asking folks to limit their carts to one, um, and to make sure that they are prepared before they bring the carts up so that then we can be as quick as possible. Um, and that it can be turned over to someone new.

Um, we are asking that only two people. Uh, much like moving, come in and help students move out. So fence both your parents or parent and a friend or whomever, um, that you still only can have two people join you and then move up process. Um, one, the other pieces are definitely need you to stop by the main desk on your way out the door, whether especially in Towers, that's to drop off your keys.

Um, and to make sure that we know that you've gone, because then we start a clock and that's when we get ready to go in and clean your room, uh, review your room and look it over. Uh, but especially in the next couple of weeks, preparing for it, start taking things down off the wall, start making things, don't pack it up to where it becomes really difficult to navigate.

Um, impacts your ability to study. But the last thing you want to do is wait until two hours before whoever's picking you up to come and grab your stuff. And then cause you will leave things. You will leave something behind you didn't mean to leave behind and odds are, you may not get it back. Um, and so to try and mitigate, um, those last bits of important property or personal items start packing some of those things together now, um, and getting ready so that when you do get ready to move out, you can go really quickly.

Um, and then lastly, You have to do your best to return the room in the condition in which you found it, you have to clean up, you can't leave things to an, all of the floor. You can't leave trash behind, um, because that can incur some charges. Um, we, we anticipate that we will have some students that, um, do that, but for the most part, students do a great job.

They get ready to move out. Um, and, um, lax actually, PS, last thing. Number two, if you have a micro fridge, make sure you get it ready. Um, there's some instructions in the materials that you'll get from. Um, the different staff, uh, through Towers that tells you how to make sure that your microphone just ready to be taken as well, um, to avoid any charges with them.

So, um, preparation get ready. Don't wait till the last minute, make sure you clean. Um, make sure you're also very careful taking things off the walls and just get ready. So you're not rushing at the end of the unit forgetting stuff. Thank you so much such a great point. And just to do a shout out of where our checkout locations are.

Um, so Bennett tower, we'll check out at the Bennett front desk at all hours lion tower. We're going to have a checkout, um, at the lion back door, near the RHC office back there. And then after 8:00 PM, uh, during the week you will check out at the front desk, Patrick, where's your locations over on that side of Towers.

They're going to check out at our brick Braxton front desk, regardless of a time of the day or day of the week. Thank you. So, Dr. Mack, I know you've alluded to this a little bit, but are there any further restrictions that students need to know about when it comes to move out? So outside of the two person limit, um, obviously PPE is going to be acquired.

That's not going to, I know that becomes old habit, but also know a lot of us are experiencing what they call mask fatigue. You know, you're, you're getting a little bit more free if you're a student that's been vaccinated, um, and your family that's coming in is vaccinated. You might think. Okay. We're cool.

We're good to go. No, we still need you to do PPE. We still need folks to a social distance. Um, Also if there are items that you don't want, but could be a value to someone else. We do have the blue and gold mine sale. Um, and what that is, is your opportunity to donate some of these items. That thinkers is trash, but you also don't think is something that you want anymore.

There are donation locations in each, uh, I both checkout areas near both checkout areas in Towers. Um, make sure and make sure you tell your friends and other buildings, uh, to, to offer those items up because that is a big opportunity for us to contribute to some good causes in the area. The only other restrictions are, uh, being mindful of your time.

You know, I mentioned that before, um, you know, the parking is going to be at a minimum, so you're not going to want to. Hang out for too long and check out, usually goes much quicker than check-in because you're actually taking things down and putting things away and going versus setting things up and trying to get things just right.

So I'm closing, I think goes really well, but don't, if you've not thought about what you've may have, if you've been getting lots of Amazon boxes all semester. You might want to consider what you came, what you were brought with in like the car. You might need the truck. Yeah. Unless you want to start taking some things home intermittently.

I know some students might even pick up and take off and make some pre prelim trips home. Um, but be mindful of how much you have. Um, cause there's some, sometimes there's nothing funnier than watching people try to stuff, things, uh, in cars that just aren't going to make it. Just aren't going to make it.

That was literally me in college. Thank you. I've been on the wrong end of that as well. A couple of times. I mean, it's like you could just walk around parking areas and the main, you know, a decision was made here just pops up because there's this stuff I said, like, that's just not going to fit. Um, or how many different ways can you see someone try and repack a trunk?

I mean, Tetris is just a full, full force, uh, for some of these families trying to make sure it's, so be really mindful of what you have and maybe even do a prelim trip if you have that opportunity to do so. Awesome. Thank you so much, Dr. Matt. Absolutely. All right. So the last question that we have, the question that we end all of our TTP episodes on what is one piece of advice that you wish to share with our first year students here at WVU?

It's weird. I think it's, uh, I'm going to give you kind of a dichotomy here. My advice, especially for this first year group is don't dwell on this year, but don't forget this year. Don't dwell on the things that you didn't maybe get to experience this year, but know that you've been kind of forged in a, um, in a matrix that's not ever existed before you are going to come out stronger in many ways than the predecessor, the preceding first year classes.

Whereas you didn't maybe get to have some of those experiences. You've had a different experience. That's going to make you more resilient, more apt, more capable than I think in general than a lot of the proceeding classes. So. Don't dwell on it. Don't go. I, we didn't get this. We didn't get that. Sit back reflect, especially when you get out of this year and look at the success that you had, look at the different ways that WVU tried to make things work and how you tried to make things work and how you did make it work and go into next year.

Even if we still have some little things that are hanging out based off of COVID know that you're, you're old hat, you're your experience, you know how to navigate it. Um, and then we will continue to work hard to try and make sure that we provide the best experience possible for you. So don't dwell, but don't forget.

Excellent advice. Thank you so much. That's a wrap everyone. Thank you so much for joining us this week. And thank you, Dr. Mac for your time today. No, thank you for having me. All right, folks tune in next week. When we interview another member of the WVU community.