The Unexpected Neighbor: The Final Insights

The Unexpected Neighbor: The Final Insights

For the spring semester, the president of Ursuline College moved into a new residence hall on campus. In just a few months she gained insights into college students and their lives.

After spending the spring semester in the new residence hall on the campus of Ursuline College (Ohio), Sister Diana Stano, president of the college, shares observations of her final weeks living with the students. She may not have known much about clubbing or reality television when she moved in, but she has gained much insight into the lives of college students.

In her third and final journal entry, Sister Diana continues to reflect on her daily life in the residence hall. Her primary goal of connecting with students remains the same, and she begins to realize just how much she will miss her young neighbors. The first two journal entries can be found in the Web Exclusive section of University Business' website. The first entry covers her reasons for living among the students. The entry can be found at http://www.universitybusiness.com/page.cfm?p=1244. The second entry includes more of her day-to-day experiences and is located at http://www.universitybusiness.com/page.cfm?p=1293.

When I first moved in, I was very proactive in inviting students to my suite for food or conversation, to play cards or just chat. As time went on, it was nice to see that my fellow neighbors started posting event information and invitations on my door. That's how I got involved in an evening of cosmic bowling that lasted until midnight. I'm touched by students' willingness to include me in their activities, and I try to attend as many as I can.

Living about 200 feet from the softball field has made it easier for me to attend games. I can even watch from my window but prefer to go in person. The students are open in showing their appreciation as I cheer them on to success.

I'm still spending time with the facilities department working out all the kinks of the new building. Figuring out how to regulate the temperature has been a concern especially in the common areas of the building. The students now know that they can adjust the thermostats in some areas to make it more comfortable.

I find that occasionally if I'm not borrowing something from someone, someone is borrowing something from me. Just recently, I didn't have any nail polish remover and asked a student if she could lend me some. Eagerly, she obliged and asked if I needed cotton balls as well. Another day, I experienced a little frustration in trying to locate a vacuum cleaner. I searched each of the three floors to no avail. I solved the dilemma when I realized that being president has its benefits. I used my master key to open the housekeeper's closet and borrowed the building's vacuum in my attempt to keep ahead of the dust.

Since the new residence hall continues to be of interest for friends of the college, I decided to do my first "ask" for a gift from a donor in my suite. I never thought I'd conduct philanthropic activities where I sleep. Wonders never cease.

It is hard to believe just how fast the semester has gone. With graduation quickly arriving, the seniors continue to be very diligent about their work and spend more time in the computer lounge than before, typing papers and conducting online research. Soon their internships, student teaching positions, and nursing clinicals will end as students will prepare for departure. Students who are returning in the fall tell me they can't wait to move back into the new residence hall, their home away from home.

The weather has turned warmer and summer wardrobes have emerged with the shoe choice being "flip flops." On the warmest of days, many of the students wear short shorts and tank tops. I have been told that there was a discussion among the students about laying out in their bathing suits on the grass but overheard the comment, "What would Sister Diana think?" I never did see any sun bathers.

I noticed recently that because I leave the residence hall early in the morning and return later in the evening, I really don't have much of an opportunity for interaction outside of the hallways and stairways. One afternoon, I had the opportunity to stay in my suite and work. It was surprising to see all of the activity during the day with students going to and from classes, returning from nursing clinicals, or arriving with bags of groceries. Two brave students were headed to their suite to highlight their hair. I decided it might be nice to spend an occasional afternoon in my suite.

With the close of the semester approaching, I invited students to a farewell gathering in my suite to hear about their experiences and to thank them for allowing me to share this new space with them. We had a great time talking about past experiences and their summer plans. I appreciated the fact that they were so willing to share glimpses of their lives.

So what do the students think of having me next door? Here are a few comments from an article written for an upcoming edition of our alumnae magazine:

Public Relations major Amanda Santiago says she felt a heightened sense of security having the president close. She got a kick out of seeing my flyers and messages posted around the dorm, letting students know that my prayers were with them and that my door was always open.

LaTisha King, a Nursing major, thought it was a great idea for the president to experience college life from the student perspective. "I'm sure she found it way different from when she went to school," she says.

"It's interesting how you hear that college presidents want to be more involved with their students," says Psychology student Bridget McNamara. "Here's an example of a president who has actually taken the initiative to get to know her students better. We had fun including her in our resident hall activities; she can really be a blast!"

Unfortunately, I was out of town when the majority of students were moving out of the residence hall. However, I did receive thank you notes from students, which I will treasure.

1. The semester in the dorm was a rich and rewarding experience that I would consider repeating.

2. Interest about my life in the residence hall continues to be a source of conversation.

3. Time goes very quickly when you are responsible for operating a college and living among students at night and on weekends.

4. I was saddened to see the students leave and will miss them.

5. Most of the college students I lived with were incredibly busy with classes, homework, and assignments; internships or clinical visits; sports practice and competition; and work on or off campus.

6. I think my presence in the residence hall had a "calming" effect on the students.

7. I feel extremely blessed to have shared this experience with such wonderful women.

In closing, I would like to encourage other college presidents and administrators to consider living with their students if even for a short time. There really isn't a better way to understand them. For me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime, eye-opening experience that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. In short, it was priceless.


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