More Students, More Help

Jenn Harrington

Residential Life on campus has been growing rapidly as the university opens its doors to increasing numbers of students each fall semester. With more students, comes more responsibility to provide services and counseling in residence halls; creating a comfortable atmosphere for first-year students as well as those returning to live in upperclassmen housing.

Rebecca Kitchell, former Associate Director of Residential Education, was recently promoted to Director of Residential Student Advocacy and Educational Partnerships. In her new position she is focusing on first-year student programming, one-on-ones, and collaborations with various campus offices. “Bother me,” said Kitchell. She has a lot of goals for her first year and looks forward to building a bridge between campus resources.

What does your new position entail that differs from Associate Director of Residential Education?

Right now my focus will be on outreach for residential students with anything that I can advocate for students such as if they are struggling academically, or with financial aid issues, or have mental health issues, as a bridge between the offices and services across campus. Any residential student who may be struggling knows that they can come here and have someone that would be willing to advocate for their needs on campus.

Was this a new position that was created for the campus?

Sort of, I’m doing everything that I was doing in my old position, but now it’s streamlined. I am still working with students in the residential setting and overseeing programming. The change is, now instead of being a hands-on doer, I am now in the position of supervising the Area Coordinators, coming up with goals for the future and developing a strategic plan. My goal is to be more of a one-to-one with students, figuring out what we can do in residential life so that there is something in place next year to give students a resource in order to deal with the issues and trends that we see.

It’s great that the campus is becoming so well connected between organizations, offices, and administration so students can get help.

It’s essential. If there is at least one person that you know, even if it’s just a random question, it’s easier. Some students feel uncomfortable entering an office and bothering someone, but now I’m saying that’s my job. Come bother me, ask me questions. It could be something I have no idea about, but I can ensure students that I will find out that information. You don’t have to sit in your room and be unhappy. You can send an email or enter our office and feel like you’re not interrupting.

Other than student advocacy, what are your plans for educational partnerships?

Educational partnerships are the programs and initiatives we develop with outreach to faculty. I am taking on a bigger position with LLC’s and how we can move the program forward. I look at what other campuses are doing, what other LLC’s we can expand to, and how to get faculty engaged in the residence halls.

What positions in Residential Life do you oversee?

I’m supervised by the Associate Dean of Residential Life, Nicole McGrath. I directly oversee the two Area Coordinators and the LLC Coordinator. Under them are the Graduate Residential Directors and Resident Assistants.

How long have you worked at the University of New Haven?

Ten years on Sept. 3. I initially applied for the Director of Student of Activities coming from Dean College in Franklin, Ma. They had already filled that, but asked me to apply for a Residential Life position that was open. Originally I said no, but after visiting the campus, I loved it. Ten years later there is no way I would trade it for the world. I love the relationships I get to build with students. I love getting to use my counseling background and watch a community build. I tell students, “If you stick to it, you love what you do and you are passionate about it, it will pay off.”

What are your goals for this year?

One of our goals is to roll out a program in the residence halls that will take place over the next few months as a traveling road show. We will invite other departments on campus to host educational programs for students. We have reached out to the First Year Success Center, Academic Services, Violence and Intervention Office, as well as the Library and Financial Aid office. We have a new intern in our department and I am working with her to develop these programs. We’re also looking to develop student groups on campus based upon student trends on campus, i.e. homesickness group, women’s health through partnering with the new mediation office or Health Services.

Do you have any plans for the new residence hall?

We are very much still in the planning stages. Our goal is to utilize that space for students as a premier space for LLC’s. The building is going to include a residence area, offices and classrooms. I’m looking forward to having faculty come into residence halls and bridge the gap to show that learning takes place in the residence halls just as much as it does in the classroom. This is where these new ideas and the bridge will be built.

If you could say anything to students, what would you want them to know?

I hate to think students just leave. That they never told anyone they were unhappy and I never had the opportunity to help. You have to be a good advocate for yourself. There are people here that want to help you; there are people here that care, and that is what makes UNH a good place to work, and a good place to go to school. It’s our main goal to help you be the best student, and the best person, you can be. Let us know what you need and we will do our best to make sure that your experience is a good one.

Rebecca Kitchell is an essential resource for on-campus residential students. She is ready to take on the new school year in her new position serving as an advocate for students. Stop in the Residential Office, located in Bixler Hall, to say hello to her and the rest of the Res. Life staff.