The Women in Housing series is a month-long project featuring the voices, stories, and experiences of women who currently or formerly work in housing and residence life. Today's post was written by Molly Kinne.
When I saw the Women in Housing series advertised last year, I was inspired when a good friend and former classmate from graduate school contributed to the series. If she can do it, I can do it. On a phone call with her a few weeks ago, I mentioned I applied to write. Her response was perfect and exactly what I needed to hear: “You’ll do great. Molls. You’ve got this.”
So, what is my story exactly? I have worked at my current institution for many years, all within housing and residence life but with varying degrees of responsibility and changes to keep things current. My first week on the job, I learned our department was one million dollars in debt. No joke. A million dollars! To pay back our debt, our department went through a variety of changes including altering our staffing structure from graduate assistants to professional staff. One thing remained constant -- I was usually either the only or one of two professional females in the office. I got lucky because at no time did I feel I was treated differently for being a woman by my coworkers. There was the one time, though, I signed up to play fantasy football. When I beat one of our resident assistants, he told me he was shocked I beat him. The next year, I almost won our league. But what do I know about football?! Then there was the time I was tasked with emailing our female RAs when our health center received a box of feminine hygiene samples. That was awkward. Of course, when H1N1 hit, I delivered sick kits to most of the female students who were sick. Unique experiences to say the least.
Living on campus was not required for our students and it often seemed our department was an afterthought. I learned early on that I needed to find ways to develop myself as a leader, find my voice, and stick up for the experience on campus living offered. I attended meetings and colleagues from other departments would ask me what my director thought instead of what I thought. I had not really experienced that before, working at a much larger university prior to this one. I knew I needed to share my own thoughts, but how? I only stood up for myself when absolutely needed. The roadblock to any type of professional development beyond campus was certainly a deficit.
Being new to the area, I joined my local chapter of the Junior League, which is a service community-driven all women's organization. In some states, Junior League is a prestigious thing, requiring letters of recommendation and only for the female movers and shakers in town. I knew ours wasn’t yet I still felt like if I told my colleagues I was joining, I would be judged. For many years, only my close coworkers knew about my involvement and even then I never shared much. I chaired some committees and strived to make a difference in what I was doing in the organization and in my community. I applied to be a board member and was selected to serve a vice-president for membership. I oversaw a council of committee chairs in relations to the membership functions of JLCS. Concurrently, I also was elected to serve as the Intermountain Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls Regional Adviser for a two-year term. In that role, I was mentor and adviser to a board of undergraduate students, as well as provided support to the advisors at member schools. I worked closely with other regional advisers in National Association of College and University Residence Halls to overhaul the advising program.
As I fulfilled both those roles and continued my role on campus, something inside of me changed. I no longer felt timid about sharing my thoughts, opinions, or ideas. Even if they asked me what someone else thought, I now had the confidence to respond. I also was able to advocate when I felt like it was important for my area or my staff to have a seat at the table.
I am forever grateful for my experience in Junior League and IACURH. I’ve continued involvement with both organizations since then and have continued to gain more knowledge, skills and abilities. Some of it isn’t always applicable to my job but lifelong skills are always important. Plus, for me, my experiences in both organizations have provided me with opportunities that didn’t exist on my campus. Whatever your role is, you have to find your voice, just like our students have to figure out who they are. Your voice is just as important. I found my voice and my seat at the table.
Molly is currently the Associate Director of Residence Life and Housing at University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She supervises and supports four full time professional live in staff members and is responsible for the overall administration of the RA program. Molly received her master’s degree in Higher Education administration from Ohio University in 2003. When not at work, Molly enjoys staying active and getting to explore the outdoors of Colorado.
The Women in Housing series is sponsored by Adirondack Solutions.