Being a resident adviser at NMU might just seem like temporary employment during college but for a handful of alumni, it opened them up to lasting career opportunities on campus. The director of housing, a coordinator of academic support services, the director of ACAC and the director of CSE are just a few titles held by those who worked their way up through the housing system.
ina Blair, a coordinator of academic support services, was a resident adviser and later the resident director of Gant Hall. When Blair was first a resident adviser, Gant was crazy, she said. Current Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life Jeff Korpi, coordinator of the McNair Scholarship Megan DelBello and Blair teamed up with staff and students to improve Gant Hall.
“We came to the realization that this place wasn’t as livable as it could be; students weren’t being successful, grades weren’t very good. We decided to change the place,” Blair said. “It was still social, it was still fun, but people could still study and sleep. I wanted people to be successful while keeping the fun atmosphere going.”
Blair said that there was a time when DelBello’s pet fish died, and they decided to give it a proper burial. They rounded up 30 or so people from the hall and put on a service for the fish.
“We got everybody in the hall together, and Jeff pretended to be the official guy who ran the funeral for the fish. We buried it out in the courtyard, and we walked around singing songs. It was one of those weird ‘nothing to do on a Friday afternoon’ things,” Blair said.
Blair said that she wishes more students realized the opportunities they have in the residence halls, whether it’s going on a hike or running to Wal-Mart at midnight, there’s always something to do.
Jeff Korpi, assistant director of housing and residence life, was also a resident adviser in Gant Hall, then was hired as a resident director in Gant, then Magers Hall. After that, he was an academic counselor with the Academic and Career Advising Center and now is the assistant director of housing and residence life.
Korpi decided to remain in Marquette after he graduated due to the great chances being a resident director opened him up to.
“The position of RD opens up a lot of doors career-wise and is a great opportunity in itself,” Korpi said.
Although being a resident adviser or director isn’t for everyone, nearly anyone can do it; applicants must have lived in a residence hall previously, have a minimum 2.20 GPA, be free of social probation and have sincere interest in aiding the success of students.
“It’s certainly a position where you create so many unique and lasting memories because you work so closely with the people you live with. Stuff gets goofy; sometimes you have really long days and really long weeks. It’s such a unique bond that you don’t get to experience with many jobs.”
Korpi said that his favorite part of the experience of being a resident advisor and director was working with students in general. He was able to see so many parts of students’ lives, and having the ability to help them is an honor.
Dave Bonsall began his role at NMU as the president of his house in Halverson Hall. When his resident adviser received the job of resident director, Bonsall took over for him. He was a summer orientation staff assistant for two years, then went on to be the resident director of Payne, then Gries Hall.
After graduating with a master’s degree, he took a job with a publishing company down state, but returned to Northern a few months later when the assistant dean of students notified him that the position for the director of student activities was open. He applied and got the job, influenced to come back due to his love for Marquette and Northern.
“It was in the fall of ’73 when streaking was really big across the country and Northern was no exception,” Bonsall said. “All of a sudden, every night there were people streaking. The Payne-Halverson courtyard became like the campus amphitheater. There were people announcing who were coming that night.”
There were Public Safety and Marquette City Police cars pulled up nightly. Public Safety didn’t know whether to do something or not, and this was compounded by the fact that the students had no clothes on. Bonsall said that Carl Holm, his fellow resident advisor and current director of housing and residence life, had jokingly suggested that they ask the streakers for their IDs.
John Frick was hired as a resident adviser in Hunt Hall when his former RA was hired as the resident director. The next year, he was the resident director in Van Antwerp Hall. After he graduated he worked in the housing departments at the University of Hartford, Illinois State University, Michigan Tech and then came back to Northern. When he returned, he was hired as the director of the career center, and now works as the associate director of housing and residence life.
Frick said that his two years as the resident director of Spooner Hall were some of the best of his life, especially because of the people he met. The bonding between resident advisers begins at their training prior to the beginning of classes.
“We used to take the entire RA staff out to Little Presque Isle, split them all into two different teams and play capture the flag,” Frick said. “There used to be an Army surplus store and the RAs would go down there and buy camo and facepaint. They would spend hours just getting ready to play.”
Frick said one of the reasons he likes working in Housing and Residence Life is that it creates the opportunity to form relationships with a group of people that can always be called upon and that he’ll have unique memories with them for years, he said.