Photo by Gianni Cocchella
As the Class of 2023 moves in to its new home at Pepperdine, Housing and Residence Life (HRL) moves in to its new office, which is one of the many changes in HRL this year.
HRL will also be introducing a new lockout process, Spiritual Life Advisors (SLAs) in apartment areas as well as new staff and positions.
HRL offers a variety of resources to promote the wellbeing and involvement of students who live on campus, according to its website. It aims to create a safe, respectful community and have resources that residents can go to for support such as RAs and SLAs.
New Location of HRL Offices
HRL is moving its office from Rho parking lot to the Student Assistance Center (SAC), along with the Counseling Center, the Student Health Center and the Office of Student Accessibility. Director of Residence Life Maura Page said each department moving to the SAC may have different opening dates depending on when they move from previous offices.
Page said she oversees the Residence Life department, which includes three associate directors, seven assistant directors, eight resident directors (RDs) and 110 RAs and SLAs.
The HRL team is excited to be in a new location near the Counseling Center, the Student Health Center and the Office of Student Accessibility, who they collaborate with.
New Lock Out Process
Robin Gore, the associate dean of student affairs and director of housing operations, oversees all of HRL. She said with the relocation of HRL’s office, the staff recognizes that it might be difficult for students to reach the office if they are locked out of their room. As a result, HRL has come up with a way to unlock students’ rooms remotely.
If a student is locked out of his or her room, he or she can call HRL. The student will then be asked a security question before being let in remotely. HRL has also changed the lockout fee to $10 during the business day when an HRL staff member unlocks the door remotely. After regular business hours, there is a $15 fee since someone from HRL has to physically go to the student’s room to let him or her in.
SLAs in Apartment Areas
Another change is the addition of SLAs to apartment areas, including Lovernich, George Page and Drescher. In previous years, apartments have not had SLAs.
SLAs foster an environment within living areas that encourages spiritual growth. They do this through building relationships and caring for residents.
“We’re really excited for spiritual development and formations in the apartments,” Page said regarding this new change.
New Staff and Positions:
Seaside is the latest housing addition on campus. Since it was built, more students are opting to live at Pepperdine.
Gore said one of the reasons HRL hired a few more people is to provide resources for the increasing number of residents.
Page said another reason for hiring more staff was to fill in the positions of two staff members who accepted jobs at other universities and Resident Director Stacey Lee, who has moved to the position of coordinator for the Health, Wellness and Resilience Education Program at Pepperdine.
As a result, Page said HRL has hired four new full-time staff members this year. This includes three RDs and one new associate director of residence life for freshmen areas.
RDs take care of residents, respond to crises, create community programming and supervise RAs and SLAs. Associate directors of residence life supervise RDs.
Page wrote in a follow-up email that HRL has also added five new assistant resident directors (ARDs) to their team. ARDs are graduate students serving as Student Affairs interns; they are not employees. They help create community programming and handle crises.
The new ARDs this year are Chloe Buckler, Maggie Geiler, Katherine Leedham, Ali Griner and Noah Shaw.
Page said there have also been two promotions. Sharon Wakio was promoted from RD to assistant director of residence life for international students, and Christina Luben was promoted from RD of Seaside to associate director of residence life for sophomore areas.
Sharon Wakio. Photo courtesy of Pepperdine Residence Life Staff
When hiring new staff or new additions to the HRL team, Gore said she looks for people “who have a heart for Christ,” in addition to examining their trainability and enthusiasm.
“We look for people that are going to be a good fit for Pepperdine, so their faith is strong, dynamic, and they have the capacity to care for others,” Page said. “They are concerned about holistic development of students, and they’re able to respond to crises as well.”
Looking more specifically at RDs, Gore said since RD is a live-in position, it can lead to burnout and stress, which is why HRL strives to make sure it supports its staff.
Introducing New Staff and New Roles:
Matthew (Matt) Dyment is the new associate director of Residence Life. Dyment came to Pepperdine in mid-July. He is from Oregon and has lived in Chicago.
Matt Dyment. Photo courtesy of Pepperdine Residence Life Staff
Pepperdine is the third institution where he has worked with students.
“I just love the energy, potential and opportunity that we have to walk alongside young adults,” Dyment said. “I love the weaving of holistic journey and faith-first that Pepperdine Housing Residence Life especially, I think, embodies.”
Dyment said he loves being part of a community that values learning inside and outside the classroom about oneself, community and “the big questions of life.”
He said he hopes that students know that their RAs and SLAs are incredible people and resources they can go to.
Alumna Sharon Wakio (GSEP 2018) pioneers the new position of assistant director of residence life for international students. She is also an RD at George Page.
Wakio has worked at Pepperdine for six years now. After being at Pepperdine in multiple capacities, she has seen a need for more support for Seaver international students.
The need for this role was particularly noticed during the Woolsey Wildfire last November when HRL had to transport passports to international students because some forgot them when trying to get off campus.
“This [was] another moment where we would need a role like [the assistant director of residence life for international students],” Wakio said. “So I can help coordinate and make sure international students know what they need to take with them, make sure that they’re all accounted for.”
Wakio is from Kenya and was an international student herself when she attended Pepperdine, so she said she understands what international students go through.
Wakio said she wants Seaver international students to know that HRL has someone they can talk to and go to for support.
“I am here for international students,” Wakio said. “To serve, to provide programming, to help them feel that they’re welcome and to create that environment where we can … foster that community and go through the transition of being in a completely foreign land together.”
The three new RDs are Josh Craton, RD at Seaside; Mindi Aleme, RD at Towers; and Debora Cubias, RD at First Year Halls.
Josh Craton moved to Pepperdine in mid-July. He has been an RD for the last five years at another institution.
Josh Craton. Photo courtesy of Pepperdine Residence Life Staff
“I feel really excited to learn from a new university and excited to have students here too and get into a normal rhythm,” Craton said. “I feel excited for the chaos amongst the rhythm with new students being here.”
He said what drew him to Pepperdine was its approach to spiritual formation.
Craton said he wants students to know that the HRL team truly cares about them and their development.
Alumna Mindi Aleme (Seaver College 2000 and GSEP 2014) has been outside of the country for the past seven years working for a nonprofit in East Africa.
Mindi Aleme. Photo courtesy of Pepperdine Residence Life Staff
“The work that we’ve done [in East Africa] has been very similar to … the goals that Pepperdine has for students as a whole, as far as building resiliency and helping young adults to be able to be empowered with the skills that they need to become leaders in their community,” Aleme said.
Aleme said returning to Pepperdine has allowed her to see how Pepperdine has prepared her for the things she experienced later in life.
“I think the goals that Pepperdine has for students [include] building resiliency and helping young adults … be empowered with the skills that they need to become leaders in their community,” Aleme said. “So I look back on that experience, and I see many ways in which it really shadows much of what I’m planning and trying to fit into everything that I’m learning right now.”
Aleme said she is excited for the relationships she will have at Pepperdine.
Debora Cubias is also a new staff member at HRL this year. She is an RD at First Year Halls and has a strong emphasis on collaboration and community building within residence life.
Debora Cubias. Photo courtesy of Pepperdine Residence Life Staff
Cubias wrote in a follow-up email that she came to Pepperdine because she believes in its mission to prepare students for lives of purpose, service and leadership, and she is excited to help students develop.
“I’m very excited to work with first year students … to see them grow throughout this year … help them get through their first year, and develop more intentional relationships with them,” Cubias said.
Reviewing and Adjusting Emergency Processes:
HRL serves students who live on campus by offering them a variety of resources. This includes providing emergency response information and services that helped students during and after the events of last November.
Page said after any emergency event, HRL, as well as other departments, reviews it and sees where they can make adjustments and what needs to change. There have been minor changes as well as consideration for developing other plans.
“We just want to make sure that all of those processes are ironclad,” Gore said.
Gore said one minor change that was made is the addition of different tape colors. The different colors of tape signal to staff how many walkthroughs have been done in a building to ensure that a space is secure and students are not left behind.
“I think one of the strengths of Pepperdine is that we’re always looking at our processes, and we’re always looking to improve our processes,” Page said.
Email Emily Shaw: firstname.lastname@example.org