Courtney Weaver is joined by Angela Delfine and Patrick O’Donnell from Housing and Residence Life to talk about the experience of living in the residence halls on campus. While things may change with the pandemic, living in the halls, close to the action, is still an advantage and can build community and help you make life-long friends!

Transcription: 

Hey everyone. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome to Wellbeing Wednesdays. I am your host. Courtney Weaver. I'm the director over at well WVU here at West Virginia university. I actually have two guests with me today, not one but two. They're joining us from do review housing and residence life. They are Angela Delfine and Patrick O'Donnell and they are both RA R.H.C.’s, which they will tell you what that means, um, over in the Towers, on the Evansdale campus. So welcome to both of you. Um, I should be noted that I calmed both of them into doing this this week because they want to start their own podcast. This fall, we had a meeting about it, and then I was like, you should just be on Wellbeing Wednesdays so that I actually have a guest this week, and it's not just me talking to myself. So they agreed. Um, so hi to both of you, and if you all want to just introduce yourselves and then talk a little bit about your role here at the university.

I think I’m first, my name is Angela . This is my second year at WVU and I am the residence hall coordinator of Oaklyn Tower here. So I definitely love it. I'm excited for a new year, despite some of the challenges that we may space with COVID and everything. Um, but yeah, I mean, you know, some of the stuff we do is orange seas and Patrick can go into it a little bit more as well.

You know, our job is to make sure that you're having a safe. And comfortable and fun experience here when you're living in the residence halls. And at the end of the day, you know, our mission, our goals is just to make it a good experience, cause this is your home. Um, and so, you know, we, we want you to have fun with it, but we also want everyone to be safe and nice to each other.

So we love what we do and we're excited for y'all to come back. All right. And Patrick. Yeah. Hello. My name is Patrick O'Donnell. I'm the hall coordinator for Braxton Tower going into my fifth year running the building. Um, like Angela said, uh, a lot of our jobs involved, you know, making sure that the students are safe and having a good time and big part of that is, um, you know, students do so much learning in the classroom, but they spend a lot more time outside of the classroom.

So a huge function of our jobs is to provide some residential education for our students and to make sure that, you know, All of their time with us is enjoyable and that they're all so learning a lot, even when they're not in the classroom. All right. And I'd just like to note that Patrick, even though he is alone in his building, he is still wearing his name tag on his shirt because he's the consummate professional, which, you know what, I would still wear my name tag, but I actually don't have one.

And it's a little heartbreaking because I love to wear a name tag. Uh, so that's accurate, very accurate. I always, I never remember anyone's name and it's so nice to just look at someone's shirt and say, Oh, that's their name? Yeah. Anyway. Um, so there are lots of different residence halls here on campus.

Now, the Towers, like I said before on the Evansdale campus. So why don't you build, talk a little bit about the experience that a student might have living in one of the Towers? Yeah, I can definitely go. I mean, I think that. Um, each of our residence halls here has, you know, their own character and their really great in different ways.

Um, you know, I think about some of the downtown buildings, Stalnaker for example, really big old traditional, um, you know, you get Lincoln, you get the honors halls, um, you know, this kinda thing. So they're all different. They all have their different niches and kind of, um, you know, experience. We're completely biased though.

We love Towers. Um, so. Um, you know, the Towers complex. It's very, I don't know. Self-sufficient maybe is the word, but, um, the really awesome part about Towers is that, you know, you live in the same building that you can go to the dining hall in your mail room. Is there, um, and honestly like living in an, as a professional is really great, cause I don't have to go outside in the winter.

Um, and the other thing too, is there are four towers. So I think that. The other cool part about it is, um, there's, there's a lot of comradery between students in the Towers and there's a lot of really like pride in living in Towers and having that as part of your identity here. So, uh, completely biased.

Um, we think Towers is the greatest, but, um, I think all of our halls are pretty good in some different ways. Yeah. They're all, they're all. Okay. But they all can't be Towers either the same time. Um, Me and, and go back and forth on, we have these, the media debates about which tower is best, but you, you don't have to talk to us about which like complex is best or which side of campus is best.

Nobody is on there arguing with us about that. Really, it's just an argument between one a and one day and everybody else's, you know, but the thing that I really like about, uh, Towers and what I think is great for our students is that it is the quintessential like college experience. It is like everything that you see, like.

If you could imagine, or all the stuff you see in media about living in college and what dorm life is like, you find that in Towers, you know, you have this, you have these large lounges and communal bathrooms to share with everybody and you see all these people all the time. And, um, It's just exactly what you think it's going to be.

Uh, and it's really enjoyable for our students. And especially like Amsted with them all being connected, it provides this huge number of people that you can meet and that you have easy access to. Um, and while yes, our students are supposed to swipe in. If they go from Braxton to Lyon, um, they don't always do that and they don't always even really get in trouble for that.

Um, unless they're causing a problem. Um, so the fact that you can easily go and visit your friends and not have to really worry about going outside, like she said, in the winter, or, um, have to sign in at the front desk. It's just, there's a lot of benefits there for our students. True. Although that might change a little bit with COVID stuff in the fall, right.

That's true. That's true. Yeah. Um, my I'll level with you, I, when I was in school a long time ago, uh, I always loved living in the halls on campus. I liked being in the center of the action. I liked being able to go to the cafeteria in my slippers, like having all my friends live around me and just, you know, messaging each other, like, Hey, wanna grab some food or you want to hang out.

It's great. I love it. Um, no, both of you kind of mentioned this in your introductions, but what does the phrase residential education actually mean? Yeah, so, um, you know, when we think about college, um, academics are kind of that piece that obviously is, is the obvious learning that occurs. And a lot of people, a lot of students and.

Staff and faculty don't necessarily realize that a lot of learning happens in student life and happens in the halls and in student orgs and all the activities that we do. And so, um, you know, this is a profession like this is, I mean, even though like we joke about like, yeah, I figured out how to live at college, like for a really long time and not pay rent.

Um, this is a profession and I consider myself an educator. And so, um, when we talk about residential education, What that means is that everything that we do for the students is intentional. So when we're throwing an event, there is intention behind that. It's not just, yeah, I'm gonna feed you pizza. And like, yeah, it's fun.

Um, but you know, we want to make sure that our students are getting something out of the experience, you know, are they, um, making lasting friendships or. Are we like, for example, in Towers, in line, we did a relationships in sex, ed, Sarah, are they learning? They like had no idea about, um, prior to coming to college.

And so, um, I think that, yeah, you know, when, when you look at the bigger picture of kind of. All that we do in ResLife, the education piece starts to make sense, you know, conduct conversations. Um, we know that people make mistakes and people come into my office and be like, Oh my gosh, you hate me now. And I'm like, no, like, I don't hate you.

We all screw up. What I want you to do is learn from it and I'm going to help you get there. So, um, yeah, that's, that's kinda my feel on it. And can you answer, um, can you tell the audience what you got your master's in. Student affairs and higher education. It is a degree. So if you want to work at a college for ms and have fun and you want to work with students, um, you know, I was an RA.

I was involved in SGA. Um, I did a lot of clubs and organizations and did orientation for a year. So if you like being involved, it's a pretty fun degree and you can work in a lot of different offices. Thank you. So I, uh, did not study any of that stuff. I got a Master of Business Administration and so on this intentionality and all this data information about the work that we do and why it's important.

None of that ever like came across my desk or like I studied any of it at no point. Was that ever like something that I was like, Uh, academically involved with, I was an RA for a year and a half. And then I got, um, a grad assistantship at another school for three years, uh, and halfway through that a year and a half.

And the idea of residential education was presented to me is that, you know, we just kind of did programs. You know, you had a pizza party and you called the day and that was it. And a year and a half. And some that we started introducing this concept of residential education, that there should be more to it.

That our students should just shouldn't just show up and, um, you know, get a pizza party or have a, you know, play a video game night when, you know, half the floor doesn't actually play video games, you know, and we're half the floor, you know, has, uh, has, is lactose intolerant like myself and the pizza may not be what they're looking for.

Um, so residential education is about taking our roles and the role of residence life. Seriously in how we educate our students. And in that, like I said earlier the day or in the classroom, and that's why they come here, but they spend most of their time with us and that we should be using that time and using that.

That space. Very nice. So along those same kind of lines, um, since this is a wellbeing podcast, how do you all support student wellbeing in the halls? And not saying that you shouldn't throw pizza parties cause you know, everything in moderation. Plus I like as a sex educator, I actually like to use pizza as a metaphor for sexual activity, which I could probably and do another podcast on both based on Ted talk.

Anyway. Um, so how, how do you support student wellbeing? So, um, yeah, I can, I can talk about, you know, so when students, um, we also put student leaders into that category and as a supervisor of the RAs, um, you know, that that job takes a lot of work and it takes a lot out of you. So, um, I always like to tell them that they are people first students, second and third, and focus on their holistic wellbeing.

Um, you know, I always want them to. Take care of themselves. So I actually make my staff write a self-care plan at the beginning of the year. Um, just to kind of reflect on, you know, what do you do to distress and what are, what is your semester going to look like? Um, because sometimes, you know, I know when I was a student, I didn't even think about that.

And I know self-care is a really hot topic right now, but even as you know, I've, I graduated college in 2013. Like we didn't really talk about it as late as that. So, um, I think it's good that. Um, you know, we're working to promote that more, especially in colleges with college students, I thought you said 2013, like it's a dirty word, 2013.

So on top of that, then when we think about student wellness, um, you know, one of the pieces of that too, is social interaction and that's a big part of. Um, you know, as human beings, they need that. And so I'm looking at student wellbeing in the time of COVID is going to be really unique and it's going to pose a lot of challenges.

And so one of the things that I've been really focusing on is coming up with ways for students to safely and appropriately engage in the midst of this pandemic. Um, so one of the things, things that we're going to try and Towers is, um, I'm going to get a cart. And I'm going to take, um, you know, pre-packaged bottled coffee and I'm going to do coffee and tea with your RHC and go door to door.

And hopefully just bring a smile to people's faces and, and engage because, um, you know, a lot of us have just been home, you know, and, and not able to engage in and do a lot during all of this. So I think it's really important that we remember that that's a big piece of, of just being a welcome MBA. Right.

And then during that coffee and tea, we could remind first year students to complete their online alcohol and sexual violence education modules, you know, because those will be doing the first couple it's is school anyway.

So, Patrick, what about, what about you? What are your like plans or ideas for the upcoming year for your programming? Right. So first and foremost, I'm completely stealing. And his idea about pushing the cart around. She knows that this isn't the first time she's heard that. Um, but like we, me and her met at various times during the summer and talked about our ideas and she brought that up in one of her first conversations.

And I just, just like, yeah, that sounds good. I'm gonna put that down on my list too. Why reinvent the wheel? I mean, yeah, exactly. Somehow, Hey, somebody has got a smarter. Yeah. Yeah. You don't need to, you don't have to try and make your own done. Anyway. A couple of things that. Um, we have historically done this coming year.

Obviously it's going to be weird, but, um, we've had, we've had, well, we come and do the bartender school outside of the cafe, Evansdale. We always schedule those for them to be there the week leading up to a home football game. Um, not coincidentally very intentionally with that, so that the students, as they're going in for dinner, kind of learn about, you know, Oh like this, I'm going to be, you know, I plan on, I was just talking to my friend about all the alcohol we're going to drink this weekend.

Uh, here's a good, there's a lesson about how much is actually in that shot. Um, so I don't know if that's going to happen with COVID this year. Um, but. Make it happen, we're going to work. Like hopefully it can hold out. Yeah, that would be good. Great for us. Um, but Anna talked about like, um, social interaction and things like that and distressing, and those things are all on our list too.

The big things that I focus on are, um, de-stressing pretty much right after midterms happen. So I did an event last year. Uh, that was right out. It was the Monday after they got their midterm grades that talked about, um, here's all, here's the facts behind four-year degrees, which are now on average, more like six-year degrees.

Um, and so I did things like that so that I, students can understand, like I'm not doing so hot in my classes, but that's okay because, um, you know, you hear everybody, you have to graduate in four years, but that's not really the reality anymore. And then we do the same. We do a similar thing in mid-February because over my four years here, I've found that students get really stressed out and to February with like mental health things and, um, you know, stressing out about school and not really knowing if WVU is right for them.

And so. We generally plan some kind of like, it doesn't always fit in with the framework of residency education, but we just do some fun, like food things for them. We get insomnia cookies delivered to the lounges and things like that. So students can have like a pep up during that time. Nice. That's so good.

I love insomnia cookies. Okay. Um, well thank you both so much. And normally we would do a wellbeing snapshot and how, like, what we're talking about today is relevant in the real world. But I mean, this whole episode was kind of that, but it also kind of. Is it's tough to define because things have changed so much and they're continuing to change rapidly.

And so the plans that we've made today may not be applicable tomorrow. So really the end of the day, I think one of the key things for any student affairs professional will be flexibility and adaptability. They're going to be asked to, you know, switch gears really rapidly. And, um, it's important that we're all able.

To do that and to make sure our students stay safe and well and happy. So well, thank you so much for stopping by really appreciate it. Um, and I will catch the rest of you next time on Wellbeing Wednesdays.