By Luke Gair
Small colleges and universities, especially those in remote areas, require the utmost consideration when it comes to mapping out residential life programs for the student population. In Sewanee, where 98 percent of the undergraduate population lives in University housing, the Office of Residential Life strives to do exactly that.
A few months into the Advent semester, it was announced that Bobby Silk would succeed Kate Reed (C’08) as the Director of Residential Life. Silk’s avid work in developing the First-Year Experience was then synthesized with the job title.
While his recent appointment places him at the helm, Silk has been a part of the ResLife team since 2013. Such experience has made the transition “relatively smooth,” he noted.
Head Proctor Sarah Cordell (C’20) shared her excitement about his new posting, stating that “he was a natural fit for the position… [and] has great organizational skills and knows how to get things done.”
“One minor challenge was the speed of the transition,” Silk explained, “I assumed the duties of the new position the same week that the position was offered to me, so I did not have much time to plan ahead for the transition.”
In building on the job title, Silk will work toward carrying out the First-Year Experience Initiative, “which would hopefully further contribute to student success and well-being at Sewanee.” In part, this means the fleshed-out program will continue after the few days of orientation that first-year students go through. Silk highlighted that through these improvements, it only makes sense that the program “continues to be housed within [the] office.”
Silk’s transition to director is not the only recent change in the office, though. The office has already lost one Area Coordinator this term, and will lose another this month. Such wake means that remaining staffers in the office must fill the gaps left behind. Though one new coordinator, Dovan Willis, was recently hired to work with the Quintard/Gorgas and the Cleveland/Tuckaway neighborhoods, the office still has work to do in terms of having a full staff.
While these losses may seem worrying, Silk clarified that “in the student affairs field, it is fairly common for a professional to work at several different institutions in the earlier part of their career, so we would normally expect Area Coordinators to stay in their role for no more than two to four years before seeking… advancement elsewhere.”
Coming into the position midway through the semester certainly poses its own challenges, and such a start means no long-term preparation. Unsurprisingly though, Silk said he “hit the ground running fairly easily” after years in the office with predecessor Reed.
With rapid changes in the Office of Residential Life, it’s certain that they will continue to grow and learn to expand on programs for on-campus undergraduate students.