In the beginning of July, John Reynolds joined the College community as the new director of Residence Life. This week, Voice staff writer Sam Killebew met with Reynolds to discuss his transition into a smaller community and his plans to improve different areas of Residence Life.
Holding a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University in both communications and art as well as graduate degrees from The University of Dayton in education and higher education administration, Reynolds seems to have prepared himself well for this position. As a former Assistant Director of Residence Life at Clemson University, Reynolds oversaw a student body of around 30,000 students, with an on-campus population of 7,800 — a large contrast to the roughly 2,000 students he oversees at Wooster. This difference, he explained, brings a lot of hope in regard to fulfilling his role here.
“[Clemson] was very indirect. Here, I can call across campus and get in touch with [department directors] immediately.” Reynolds explained. “The biggest difference [between Clemson and Wooster] is the approach that Wooster takes in outreaching to students — there is a larger focus on student care. It’s very much a culture of, if someone’s struggling, try to get them the support they need.” While the culture of Wooster has brought its benefits, Reynolds explained that there are some difficulties in completing his role at the College. “The ability to have staff in all the spaces we need—we are currently not there,” he said. “We need at least three or four more people to effectively serve our roles. We also need RAs. An ideal goal would be to grow by at least 10 RAs.”
Reynolds also explained that many of the processes in ResLife, whether it be navigating a complaint, a maintenance order or switching rooms, seem like a barrier to action, rather than a step towards it. His solution to these issues is to implement a more holistic approach to housing on campus. Reynolds emphasized the need for more RAs in making ResLife a more reliable resource for students.
“We want to make RAs more present in residential life. We want them to be part of the residence hall, rather than just an authority figure or just a resource.” He hopes that with more outreach, students will be more interested in becoming RAs, something he mentioned is a key challenge in ResLife right now. He also believes that with more ResLife staff, there will be more effective allocation of human resources. With only three staff members in ResLife currently, it can be extremely difficult to meet the demands of the entire campus. Despite this, Reynolds said that he wants to remain a consistent figure at the College of Wooster.
“I want to develop more of a presence [of ResLife] on campus,” Reynolds explained. He mentioned that he values offering office hours in the Hider House, in Lowry, or just being able to be reached by phone or email.
Although Reynolds has only been at the College of Wooster since the beginning of July, his position has already handed him some pretty hefty responsibilities. However, when asked about how his position affects his work-life balance, he replied, “The transition [to Wooster] has been going really well. All my past experiences have prepared me for this role, but mostly it’s just a matter of learning the culture, the student body, and resource involvement on campus.” He added that he views students on campus as his own family.
“I have two kids, so navigating how to meet their commitments while also supporting students on campus is difficult … sometimes I find myself working until 8 or 10 p.m. to try and meet everyone’s needs,” he said, before reiterating that his experience has suited him well for this role, and he is more than happy to be providing the services he does. “My door is always open if you need to chat,” he concluded.