By Konnor Newton, Student Journalist
Each year the students living on the campus of Husson University are greeted by the new faces of their fellow residents, new RAs and this year the addition of some new residential Directors. One of those RD’s is Spencer McBreairty, now the overseer of Residential Life in Hart Hall. McBreairty is a native Mainer who attended The University of Southern Maine where he worked as an RA from his Sophomore year, through Senior year. McBreairty then went on to work as a Residential Director at the University of Pennsylvania. Looking to apply his diverse Res-Life skills to schools closer to his home state McBreairty applied to various college campuses around Maine. Husson was the first school to offer a job so he took it. With one semester under his belt, McBreairty reflects on his experience being a part of Husson’s community so far and looks ahead at the vision he and his team of RD’s have moving into the future.
McBreairty says, his experience with the residential community at Husson especially in contrast to that of the larger institutions he’s been involved with, is very tight knit. “I think with Husson, the biggest thing is that students who come to Husson want to be here, for what Husson is. This isn’t necessarily a “fallback” school like for a lot of people, USM was; and because of that I think you see a lot more pride.” McBreairty added that because of the size of the school and the fact that the community here at Husson is so close, students hold each other accountable for each other’s actions. Explaining the identity each resident has with their residence hall; be it Bell, Hart, Carlisle or the DLC. McBreairty says students genuinely care about where they live and because of that, hold each other to a certain standard as far as how the buildings are treated.
“The best way to explain it is, if a dorm needed to be closed at one of my other schools, yeah, people would notice, but ultimately no one would really care that much. Here, I think students would directly protest such a thing.” As an RD and a past RA, McBreairty expresses great enthusiasm about the state of the campus behavior and says, looking at the statistics, Residential Life incidents have been on a steep decline over the past three years. He say’s this is likely due to the cohesive Residential Assistant staff on campus.
However there have been some drawbacks in regard to RA staffing, and not for lack of excellent RAs. McBreairty succeeded an RD who had selected a staff that would best suit their specific leadership styles and who they felt would best complement each other’s skills and weaknesses. Many of the staff members are returning RAs who worked with the said RD in past semesters. McBreairty explained that because of this, he’s been challenged in terms of his his ability to lead and delegate effectively. Manning the crew of someone else’s ship so to speak. As with most anything people become accustomed to a certain way of going about a job, and change can be difficult.
Jeff Love is a first year RA in Hart Hall and a Senior in the Business program here at Husson. “It was definitely pretty interesting being hired by someone, only to have them not come back and be told you’ll be working for someone else. But it’s worked out alright, I’d say as a staff we’re gettin it done haha… so to speak.” Love explained that with the rotation of RD’s (three out of four new Residential Directors including McBreairty) it’s easy to note a difference in how things are run. Newly implemented requirements like an increase from three floor programs per semester to eight per semester and a brand new building appointed “Hart hall council” show signs of a push toward more student involvement. “I can see where Res-Life is headed, but like anything it’s going to have it’s ups and downs before it gets there.” Love says, explaining that the changes in what’s expected from both students and RAs in their contribution to the community will take some getting used to.
With the hiring process of next year’s RA’s under way, McBreairty is optimistic about being able to assemble a staff that shares similar interest in the goal of student involvement and will hopefully push Res-Life through the formative stage it’s going through now. However McBreairty, explains that it’s vital to build a balanced staff. He says he likes to be challenged on ideas as long as it’s ultimately beneficial to the progress of everyone. He says RAs can basically be divided into two groups: Community oriented RAs, those that are most interested in community involvement, programming and being a resource; and Conduct oriented RAs, those that are more focused on upholding policy, being a leader as well as an example for residents. He says all good RA’s are made up of most of these traits but each RA tends to lean to one side or the other. A well rounded staff needs a balance of both of these approaches McBreairty says.
In the coming semesters, McBreairty is looking to streamline his Hall Council concept, and to have other resident halls follow suit. Electing their own councils that will make decisions for their respective buildings and work with student council to set up campus-wide student events. According to McBreairty, Hart’s council has been quite successful considering it has only been around for just over a semester. The idea is to be able for students to have a say in what goes on in the Res-Life community, rather that just having the Res-Life staff run everything for them. Hart’s council is in the process of organizing a team for an MS walk in the spring and designing Hart Hall t-shirts that can be purchased as a keepsake by residents. Again, reaffirming that comradery student’s have amongst their halls. McBreairty is also looking forward to year and the prospect of being more comfortable and well adjusted to the community at Husson, having already figured out what the job entails as well as his goals and aspirations within the position.