October 18, 2012
MSU Billings hall directors bring leadership, passion to a job that makes housing feel more like a home for college students
Housing and Residence Life, 657-1619
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Whether it’s the middle of the night or the middle of resource inquiry, Alison Adams and Chris Wilkins always seem to have the pulse of student life at Montana State University Billings.
Sunday night at midnight, they were with students ushering in the basketball practice season at Midnight Madness at Alterowitz Gym. Later in the week, they helped get students to an open house at the remodeled Student Health Services facility. A night later, they were with other students at a special presentation on disability and inclusion at the university.
Their effectiveness is not only that are with students 24/7, they also have a passion for juggling the many aspects of their job.
Equal parts life coach, counselor, guardian, cheerleader, liaison and gentle disciplinarian, Adams and Wilkins hold the “official” title of hall director at MSU Billings. Together, they help make sure nearly 600 students are safe, comfortable and having a successful college experience. Some of the students living in the halls come from towns with fewer than 600 people, which makes it important to work as a team, they said.
“I really like the collaborative nature of the work,” said Adams, a 24-year-old from Ohio. “It’s so much more than being a hall director.”
Adams came to Billings this past summer and is the new Petro Hall director. She and a staff of 11 resident assistants (RAs) work together to provide not only a fun college experience, but also safe “home away from home” from September to April.
Each floor is served by an RA who is a fellow student who is also employed by the Office of Housing and Resident Life. Those peers have a depth of knowledge about MSU Billings that is conducive to student success. Working with the hall directors, the RAs plan various recreational, social and educational activities to help increase involvement in the university community.
That’s why you will see Adams and Wilkins at virtually every university-sponsored event, athletic game or special activity. They know it’s important to engage their RAs and students with the university in as many ways as possible. They also happen to like it.
“The best part about my job is the interaction with the students on a daily basis,” said Wilkins, a 24-year-old from Billings Central who is the director of Rimrock Hall. He has a staff of eight RAs.
Wilkins has a passion for residence hall living that goes back to his college days at the University of Montana where he was an RA and an assistant hall director on the Missoula campus. Just last year, he and some former buddies collaborated on a small cookbook marketed for college students that relies on equipment commonly found in dorm rooms.
“I’ve always had a love for housing,” he said.
He and Adams collaborate on programs and events and rely on the RAs to offer students encouragement and support when they need it.
“We have a really great housing staff here,” Adams said. “I’m really lucky.”
Jeff Rosenberry, the assistant director for housing and student life at MSU Billings, said Adams and Wilkins have key roles in student success and development. He said Adams has already created great relationships with students and university colleagues and “there is no doubt she will continue to be an asset for student development in the future.”
Wilkins, he said, is a well-rounded student affairs professional who brings a variety of skills and knowledge to the housing department and the students he serves.
Students who live in the residence halls have some advantages of being close all kinds of activities. In the past few years, the facilities have been upgraded to include a small fitness area the residence halls have free laundry, free cable TV and internet access in the rooms, a computer lab in each hall and secure entry points. And potential students are finding out room and board at MSU Billings is more affordable than the cost of residence hall life in Bozeman and Missoula.
Those advantages raise interest and expectations. Both hall directors, Rosenberry said, will be working hard to keep up with rising student demands.
“With students changing every year, housing departments can sometimes get stuck in the ‘same old programs’ to serve their population,” he said. “This housing team, however, will be pushing the limits as we move forward with the creation of new programs and initiatives that keep up with changing student profile. I could not be more proud to work with these individuals towards the overall growth and success of the students living in the residence halls.”
For more information on Housing and Residential Life at MSU Billings, go to www.msubillings.edu/reslife/ or call 657-1619.
PHOTO ABOVE: Chris Wilkins, left, and Alison Adams are the new hall directors at MSU Billings Office of Housing and Residence Life. Wilkins is the director of Rimrock Hall and oversees a staff of eight resident assistants, who are all MSUB students. Adams is the Rimrock Hall director and oversees a RA staff of 11 student leaders.