Colorado School of Mines’ Department of Residence Life is a featured program.
The Mines Department of Residence Life & Housing follows a unique and casual model of encouragement and support that is denoted by the infusion of a sense of family into everyday work. The “ResLife Family” is something that is valued and held close to the heart of every single person that works in Residence Life & Housing at Mines. This model is evident in everyday operations and is the reason staff members come to Mines and why staff members stay at Mines.
Each year and with each new staff member, the Director of Residence Life explains to everyone, new and returning to the department, that working in Residence Life means they are now part of a family- and beyond that, family friends with each of the different departments on campus. In his welcome talks, our Director defines family as a group of people who work hard to ensure the success of others, who are there for each other in good times and bad, and who accept each other unconditionally. He also explains that everyone on campus has the common goal to work together to provide a seamless experience for students. This feeling of cohesiveness and family is taken very seriously and even though it is a feeling, there are some unspoken and concrete things within the department that make the feeling possible and help it trickle down from top to bottom and vice versa.
First, social interactions are key. Almost every single day professional staff and student staff go to the dining hall and have lunch together. There is always a ResLife table that people fluidly cycle in and out of during the lunch hours. This time has promoted the “human” aspect of the full time staff to the student staff and allowed the professional staff time to form strong bonds with one another that rival that of brother and sister.
Next, the family always protects and helps it’s own. This can come in many forms but two of the most common forms that are seen are in the respect of personal time and the unofficial no-competition clause.
Every member of the Residence Life and Housing team encourages, and sometimes demands, that their colleagues leave at 5pm. Everyone sees burnout as a very real possibility in the Residence Life field and Mines has decided to make adjustments to schedules so that everyone can have an ability for rest in between busy days. Each member of the family ensures that their family members are happy and healthful in a physical and emotional context. In the morning, if someone texts the staff to let everyone know they will be out due to an illness, you can be sure that there will be someone showing up with soup on your doorstep and offering to bring you lunch. While there are personal boundaries that begin at 5pm, if one of our own is sick or in pain you can bet we will be there to help in any way we can.
The professional staff also believes that the students come first and career advancement comes second. Competition amongst new professionals is virtually non-existent because everyone is allowed free reign and given support to follow their passions while the everyday tasks are tackled as a team. Without this cloud of competition, delegation comes easily, change is not difficult, brainstorming sessions are fruitful, and tasks get completed well and in record time. It also creates an environment of learning when everyone gets to have input and participate in things from selections to training to construction walks.
Lastly, a family is trusting in one another. Within the department there is transparency, honesty and faith in one another. Everyone knows that we are a team, we handle the good and bad as a team. No family member is valued above another and all are kept in the loop on departmental issues. With trust comes accountability. As a family, staff members are encouraged to hold their peers, supervisors, and supervisees accountable for attitudes and actions. It is the backbone of the family model.
Overall, the tradition of family in the Department of Residence Life and Housing at Mines is one of the reasons it is such a wonderful place to call home. Being accepted and respected as both a person and a professional, no matter where you fall in the organizational chart is a rarity and once it is found you never want to leave the feeling behind. Mines is a place where any professional or student staff member can grow, all one needs to do is have the desire.
Submitted by Birce Bleem, Residence Life Coordinator for Maple and Aspen Hall