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Every person matters, says new director of residence life

Director of Residence Life Jess Sweizer (left) with Coordinator of Residence Life Sierra Krippner (right) on “Twin Day” during training outside of the dorms on the south end of Westminster College’s campus in fall 2018. Sweitzer began her role as director of Residence Life in July and said she already has several long-term and short-term goals for her office. (Photo courtesy Sierra Krippner)

In under three weeks, Jess Sweitzer, the new director of Residence Life, went from interviewing at Westminster College to moving from Pittsburgh, PA to Salt Lake City.

Sweitzer began working on campus on July 5. Her office is located in Shaw L6 on the lower level located near Counselling Services and Global Peace and Spirituality Office.

Before Sweitzer started, Karnell McConnell-Black, the dean of students, acted as interim director of Residence Life.

Mauri Hefley, one of the residence life support staff who works directly for Sweitzer, started working before Sweitzer arrived. Hefley said working with Sweitzer allows the office to run more smoothly.

“It’s nice just to have someone in the office to answer questions if there’s things we aren’t sure of,” Hefley said. “It gives it more of a sense of normality, just having someone around the office is really nice.”

Another Residence Life Support Staffer Ryan Jacquet started work in the office the first semester Sweitzer was at Westminster.

“What inspired me to apply for this job definitely was Jess,” Jacquet said. “I got to notice her personality and the way she works with other people, and I wanted to become a part of that.”

The Forum spoke with Jess Sweitzer about her new job as director of Residence Life. Her answers were provided via email and have been lightly edited for clarity and consciousness.

Q: What is an average day for your role on campus like?

A: I have come to realize in my time working in [Residence Life Office] that there is no such thing as an average or typical day. That is actually one of the things I like about my job. Every day is unique. I typically meet with a lot of students each day, while also going to a handful of meetings with other offices.  

Q: What are your responsibilities as director of Residence Life?

A: I have a lot of different responsibilities in my position. Primarily, I am here to support our students in their living situation. That can look a lot of different ways. I meet with students when they have questions or concerns. I assist faculty and staff when they need help with a student. I sit on various committees that the college has to ensure that our student experience is as great as it can be.

Q: What did you learn from your college experience that you bring to Westminster’s Residence Life Office?

A: I attended a small private liberal arts college which prepared me well for life. I think the greatest skill I learned there was to think critically. I learned to keep an open mind and explore the world around me. I learned every person on campus impacts a student’s experience. I believe that we get to create great experiences for our students while helping to better prepare them for the world.  

Q: What is the biggest struggle affecting residence life at Westminster?

A: I would say spacing. We do not have a ton of vacancies on campus. As we move forward to the future, I know that I will need to look to find ways to house more and more students on campus.

Q: What is your next goal for Westminster’s Residence Life Office?

A: I have a lot of short term and long term goals for our department. Some we have already accomplished, while we slowly work towards achieving the others. It is hard to pick just one.  Just yesterday, I met with a student and discussed our common interest in creating a gender-neutral floor on campus with integrated programming for the residents. I am also working with a few people on campus to create living-learning communities (LLCs) that are tied to some of the current [Learning Communities]. Most importantly, I look at ways we can continue to contribute to and enhance the student experience at Westminster College.  

Q: Is there anything else the Westminster community should know about you?

A: My favorite Starbucks drink is a grande Chestnut Praline Latte. If I ever invite you for coffee or tea, please take me up on it. I love meeting with students over coffee and tea and getting to know more about them.

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