Jake Rost: Alright, we are here, it is May 2nd Tuesday 2017 it is 9:15 in themorning, I am here with Mr. Fojtik and he works for Reslife, Mr. Fojtik, good morning!
Tom Fojtik: Good morning
JR: Alright so I guess just to start things off just going to ask about thebrief history of your life where you grew up, family, just give us the details
TF: Alright, as you said my name is Tom Fojtik, I grew up in Cudahy, Wisconsinwhich is just south of the city of Milwaukee grew up along lake Michigan, from a very large family, ten children in our family a large complicated family, you probably don't have enough time to hear about that part of the history although some of it may bubble up to the future of the interview as I answer questions. So I went to school at Thomas Moore high school which is actually in the city of Milwaukee and at that time it was an all-boys catholic high school, I went there 00:01:00primarily, you can appreciate this, because my older brothers were runners and they had a very good cross country team and track team and I fancied myself as a runner and so I went here to sort of follow in my brothers footsteps and I would say that I was an okay runner and a couple of my brothers were great runners so compared to them I didn't look so good but it was a great experience for me and important for my life because the cross country team I was a part of I helped do a little assistant coaching after I left but during that time period that coach won 11 straight conference titles and he won I believe 4 state titles and I was a part of one of those, just on the edge of varsity so I was one person away from running in the state meet and it taught me a lot about what excellence is and his coach by the way he won state titles in cross country, basketball, at 00:02:00two different schools, track, and then was also a good baseball coach he actually owned a minor league team that used to play in Wausau and so I just learned a lot about what it took to be excellent what it took to be good how to recognize talent because there were some people as runners who just have it, you know, but I also learned that even if you have talent you gotta work if you're really gonna be a champion and so the way I like to put it in my formative years is there is a difference between a winner and a champion and I learned that going to the high school, I thought the high school was just okay at best, but that component of it for me was really good so after high school I went to college at the university of Chicago and that was kind of cool because it is a great place and I actually went there for a visit prior to applying because I 00:03:00had applied for a scholar athlete award, it's a division three school like ours so they don't give scholarships for sports but they did, they do recognize if you have high academics they'll give you that, so I went and visited had a great, I mean just tremendous visit and did not get the scholar athlete scholarship but I just liked it so much that once I got accepted I just decided to go, the interesting story there was when I was in high school and I was thinking about college the way I became aware of that scholarship was through the basketball coach at the time who I sort of knew but he was good friends with our cross country coach and that was before he coached basketball and he suggested that I applied for it which just showed the importance of sort of being recognized and having people in your corner and I like to point out that my guidance counselor was absolutely useless throughout all of this, it was another teacher and coach who recognized and saw something in me and alerted my 00:04:00coach and I carried that with me that we in our roles can have a great influence on other people success so I went to Chicago and I did run for a couple of years but it was a very high academic demand there and it just got to be that I couldn't do both and so after 2 years of cross country I gave it up and I kept running and did road races and all that other stuff but I went to college there and had a very good experience during my college years I actually took, we were on the quarter system, I took two quarters and took an internship at a residential treatment center for adolescents in Minnesota which no longer exists I believe and that was also a defining experience for me, basically it was like being a CA accept everyone on your floor was emotionally disturbed that's the only way to put it and so I really learned a lot there it was a hard experience 00:05:00but I met some great people and I saw some people that were suffering tremendously which was hard to watch especially when they're 15 or 16 years old and you think is this gonna improve for them I don't know but it made me wanna go and work for mental health so when I came back to college as much as I liked the college experience I've never really cared for school I mean I liked studying when I want to study the pace I want to study it and school doesn't often fit that and so that plus trying to save money caused me to apply what's called a professional option program so at Chicago if at the end of your junior year you can applying for that program either through medical school, law school, business school, or their social work program and I applied to the social work program and so when I came back from my internship in Minnesota I was actually a fourth year senior but I was starting my first year of grad school and so that was a rather intense experience because I still had undergraduate credits to finish while I was taking grad classes plus we had 00:06:00field experiences so I worked at a school on the south code of Chicago which was really good experience for me, it was basically all black and I was one of the few white staff there and it really gave me a unique perspective that I just didn't have before and so I also worked in a school and then I also worked in a lock unit of a mental health ward in a hospital in Chicago and I actually loved the patients and I loved the work but it was very very taxing and I took it home with me and I think it was at that point I realized I couldn't do this as a career so it may seem crude to say it but I love crazy people and it was a relatively safe environment and people had support so I had wonderful conversations with people that were not all there with us but it was just too hard and I have some mental illness that runs in my family and it's just a lot 00:07:00of stuff and so I finished that program and social work with my masters but I'm like I don't really wanna do this, so I took the summer off and if you get that opportunity I worked my own summer job I worked for the grounds crew for the school system where I worked and was also the softball umpire which I did all throughout my college years but it was a good summer and then in the fall I started looking for jobs and just as soon I started looking for jobs I got a really bad case of mono and so I was kind of laid up for three weeks and I couldn't even think straight and I applied for a couple jobs and a couple were more social work related and really didn't appeal to me but then I saw an opening at Oshkosh for a hall director job and someone had left late at fall semester and at Chicago we didn't have a traditional housing program I mean we 00:08:00had housing and I was an RA but it was very different than what we had here, and we didn't have hall directors and so I I saw the job and the position description matched up pretty nicely with what I thought my background was in terms of the way I was trained in what is called the generalist program and so I applied for the job and had been interview the week between Christmas and New Year's, got the job, I think they were desperate quite frankly I mean it was a weird time and here were better backgrounds in housing than I had but they hired me so a couple days after January 1st in 1982 I started here and I was hall director in South Gruenhagen and the cool things about that building was no one was anticipating opening that building that year but they had more students than they had anticipated so all the CAs were alternates and of course I came in mid-way through and all the students were people that were late applicants and 00:09:00we were called home of the leftovers; and so that is kind of what brought me here and there's more but it will come out as we go.
JR: Perfect! Ya so, then obviously you started here as a hall director sotransitioning from that to reslife what was that like?
TF: Well I spent a semester at south Gruenhagen and then I spent two years insouth Scott as hall director so I really liked that job you have a lot of student interaction I mean, and we'll talk about this later but college is a great place to work because there is a lot of positive energy now the challenge for someone like me is number one I'm not a night person which was a killer and number two I need some space and solitude and living in a residence hall does not provide that especially when you're a non-student and so as much as I loved 00:10:00what I did here and at south Scott living in was really wearing on me so after two and a half years as a hall director a job opened up as an assistant director of residence life up in this office and the boss at the time my supervisor and mentor he did an internal search because there was like 4 residence hall directors that were interested in that job and so the sad news was that I didn't get the job. I was second and I was not happy about it because I never apply for a job unless I think I should have it and you know, why bother otherwise and so but the first person was a friend of mine and I liked her that wasn't the issue it was just that I felt like was a better candidate but the irony was two weeks after getting the job and it was right before we were going to open residence halls she took another job at UCLA in California and that was a really corky 00:11:00thing and she happened to be at a conference and she was offered a job and she applied I mean it just happened so fast so right before we were gonna open ours doors like 2 days before we were gonna open our residence halls I got a job up here in his office and I really liked that job, that was a job I got to work with student leaders and I worked with programming and activity planning and got me involved with USRH which was our hall government and I've been pretty much in love with that organization ever since and as I told the group the other night as we attended our final banquet I've attended over 400 USRH assembly meetings so that's gotta be some sort of record and 200 I had to go because I was an advisor the other 200 I went because I wanted to do I did that job as assistant director for 12 years and then one of our other assistants who was in charge of the staff, she took a job in Florida and so I was transitioned to her job and I did that job for like 4 or 5 years and I learned a lot about myself in that job 00:12:00and I think out of all the jobs I had it was probably the least good match for me like we do strength quests here and my strengths are very strategic and that was a job I like to call the daily care and feed of staff and that's just not what I wanna spend my time doing as much as I like the people and putting training together and I like doing the hiring and all that stuff which is what did but the daily care and feeding is staff is not the best use of my strengths but after 4 or 5 years of doing that another assistant director left and I became in charge of facilities and budget which actually I really liked the only downfall of that job is it really took away a lot of student contact but I did that and then my boss Jim Chipwood after we had a failed search for a dean of 00:13:00students he was asked to serve as kind of a half time dean and half time director of this site and it was a very tough thing to do and they're physically located in Dempsey which is 3 blocks away so he just couldn't be here that much because he just can't and so I ended up becoming associate director and sort of ran day to day operation here so I oversaw facilities I oversaw budget head and I really supervised everybody up and down his office or this hallway and then after several years of doing that Jim became full time dean and then I became director of residence life and that was about 10 years ago and so I am on my 11th year as director.
JR: Wow! And you've been hanging around ever since!
TF: And the thing is I wouldn't have been able to do it for that long I think Iwould have gotten bored or whatever but I couldn't do a single job for 35 years the fact is I think I had 6 different position descriptions so I've had 6 different jobs and that's how you stay in one spot for a long time.
JR: Absolutely! And so now it's been 11 years you said, reslife director, being00:14:00that, what is your major job behind reslife?
TF: It's really to provide a strategic direction and support for our program asa whole for example I oversee the facilities end of things and so right about when I started we were in the middle of a, what they call, kind of a strategic planning process where we were looking at our facilities and developing what they call a master plan for the facilities and so that came on the heels of renovating Taylor Hall which was one of my big facilities projects and we learned a lot from that and so it was my job to kind of lead us through that master planning process and we had a consultant from Chicago that came up and worked with us for probably a year or so of and on coming back and forth to help 00:15:00work with the entire university community and worked with students and with faculty worked with staff and worked with us to try and come up with a plan for our future and so that's the kind of thing a director oversees and as a result of that we have already built a new residence hall in horizon and then we're finishing a renovation of fletcher and the plan going forward is to do Stewart and Evans next and I don't know if financially that's gonna work but it's my job to sort of see us through that and it's when we do any kind of strategic planning as a department in terms of our program it's my job to oversee that it's my job to represent the department for example we're part of the division of student affairs at this point and all the directors of departments of that division we meet regularly with our boss for vice chancellor for student affairs and it's my job to represent the department in that respect if there is ever a need for an interview, I'm usually the one that gets called I mean I'm not always the one that does the interview but it starts with me and then we go from 00:16:00there. I would say here is a medium to high level problem solving that I'm responsible for so for example even though people from the outside may not see my role if we have an extremely angry student or parent I will be working with the people who are working with hem if it is not me directly for example the people in the front office, if someone's unhappy with their housing assignment or they got a ridiculous roommate situation and they just can't deal with it, it usually ends up on my desk and my particular style is I don't like to get too involved because then people will go to me directly which is not always the best way to do this but I am always involved. High level context stuff, anytime we're making decisions about somebody's future in usually involved and our conducts person works right across the hall and she and I meet every week and we talk about the various classes that are going on in fact I meet with all the assistant directors and meet with them weekly and so each of their areas like 00:17:00one of them runs our conference services operations which is very different than a lot of things so I work with him provide him with directions and all that sort of stuff we have a person who oversees all of our staffing a person who oversees all of our programs we have a person who oversees all of our occupancy and housing assignment process I meet with all those people regularly and try to have a lot of freedom but I am also here a lot so I can try and help them with support and problem solving where I see fit. It's definitely a big picture kind of job.
JR: Absolutely! And then being here as long as you have you get to see most ofthis stuff unfold
TF: I just talked to an alumni last week and she hadn't been on campus in awhile and she just couldn't believe it. I mean it's just physically a completely different place than it used to be in so many ways and it's been cool to sorta 00:18:00see that. You feel like an old man sometimes because you can't, like when people complain about one thing or another, I'm like, ten years ago, that situation was a lot worse. So you do have a perspective on the improvements that have been made here but they are dramatic. Absolutely dramatic compared to when I started.
JR: Awesome. So we kind of talked about your role in reslife, um, so what wouldyou say reslife's role is throughout the university, just as a whole, just as a program?
TF: I would say, um, there's good data to suggest that living on campusparticularly for the first year, makes, gives students a better chance to become engaged in campus life which is a real positive predictor for their persistence and their success in college so we take that very seriously. So, we're kind of an onboarding program for the university. Uh, we like to joke that when we do 00:19:00our residence hall opening on Labor Day weekend that that's the first homecoming. You know, we are welcoming students and their families and we are trying to make them, help them, get off to as a positive start as possible. So, that's, that's a huge piece of the puzzle for us. We collaborate intensely with a lot of different departments: the dean's office, reeve union, university police, the counseling center, student rec and wellness, athletics, I mean, you name it, health center, there's just a lot of entities that we collaborate with. And we, we do provide at this point in time some housing that is all first year students and we do that because we believe there are some benefits to that and students tell us. You know, like, we do some um, exit interviews and exit surveys from students as they're finishing their first year and the theme that runs through that is that they like being in a place where everybody was going through what they were going through. Um, that can be a real stress on CA's because they've got all these people that all have the same problems and they don't have any sophomores to tell them what to do. But, on the other hand, it 00:20:00does, people feel more comfortable and parents love it knowing, okay, my kid's gonna get some special attention because they're in their first year. So, we take that very seriously. Part of that is the USP program. I think that we sort of indirectly support that, because, um, you know, before you went through it, and I know some people complain about USP, but the fact is the general education program here was a mess. We had people who were graduating seniors taking 100 level classes because they didn't do the requirement when they were, when they probably should have and it's all messed up when you don't do it like that and you have people who can't graduate until they take that beginning speech and communication class. And it's a lot more coherent now. So, I think that by, um, providing places for people to lie, and study, and grow, we can help support what the university is trying to do from a general education perspective. So, that's a huge piece of the puzzle. I would also say that, um, a student that's having challenges in a residence hall, it doesn't just show up here. If they're 00:21:00not doing well in the hall, they're probably not doing well in class. They might have some conduct issues, they might have some other mental health stuff i mean, who knows what's going on? They might have family stuff going on. We collaborate extremely closely with our colleagues, especially at the counseling center and the dean of students office and academics, quite frankly, to just, problem solve at a high level with people that are really struggling. In fact, there's a meeting every week where they talk about a list of maybe ten to fifteen students who we all know because if we're having issues then you're probably having issues and that's something that is a fairly recent thing on this campus, about ten years old. That's a, it's just an example of how we can all collaborate to help students be more successful. But, the thing I would point out too is that, I believe, according to admissions is that Oshkosh is still the top second choice institution amongst all the UW schools. So, what I tell our staff, that means we have people that are coming here that are really aren't yet that committed to being here. You know, they're somewhat ambivalent and that presents some challenges for us. But, I see it as our job to persuade those people or 00:22:00help them understand that this is the place. And you can succeed here and you can do anything you wanna do. And, um, it presents some challenges, I think, to the university because for a lot of our students, it's not, I wouldn't consider it the destination campus. You know, if they want to go into physical therapy, they go to La Crosse. They just think, well, La Crosse, you know? And here we have nursing but it's really a very small program so it's not that many students and, but, we have a lot of students. The most popular major at this point is undecided. Now, as a parent, I'm perfectly fine with that because this is a good place to explore but when you're trying to sell, how do you sell to undecided students? You can't sell an academic program because they may not be interested in that. So it's, it presents some challenges for us but it's also an opportunity. My biggest thing with our students is i think that many of you have great potential and you have very little awareness of what that is. And i see it as our job to help you understand what your potential is and to reach it. So, today, we work very closely with our partners. And helping, us helping students 00:23:00get engaged in campus means we have to promote reeve union programs. We have to promote programs that other entities across campus do. We're big on working with athletics. We're big on the counseling center when they do stuff, I mean, we just, we work with anybody and anybody, anybody and everybody on trying to get our students involved in campus life in a positive way.
JR: Awesome. Yeah, and I think, I think that very visible too. Um, there's somany different activities, programs. Um, it's almost impossible to go here throughout your entire college career and not be involved in something or not participate in some activity.
TF: Well, if we get a call from parents saying there's nothing to do or theirkid says there's nothing to do, I would say well, you just, look at the website, look at this, look at, there's a zillion things to do. And people are particularly concerned that there's nothing, they say there's nothing alcohol free. Well there really is a lot of stuff. I mean, there's a lot of stuff every weekend. There's, uh, a lot of activities. I mean, I've been to two plays in the last two months, I go to sporting events, I mean, there's a ton of stuff. A ton 00:24:00of stuff to do.
JR: Mhm, awesome. And, you know, you talked about years before this you know, itwasn't, it wasn't so great. You know, there were, there were just different pieces of the puzzle that weren't exactly there and um, and that's why the university just seemed, you know, definitely not as good as it is now and what do you think the program was like back then?
TF: What the biggest difference is when I started the drinking age was eighteen.Completely changes the dynamic. When people can openly drink, and I think we still have a reputation which is not totally accurate but I was stunned when I came from the University of Chicago to UW Oshkosh at the level of drinking that went on here. And what was most stunning to me was, it's not to say that, in Illinois the drinking age was nineteen so it was a little different. What was 00:25:00different was the neighborhood. In the south side of Chicago, you do not bring attention to yourself at night when you're walking around. You don't yell and scream and you know, f this, f that, you just don't do that because it's not a neighborhood where it's safe to do that. It's not a terrible neighborhood by any stretch but you're in the middle of the city you just gotta be smart. I was shocked at how open people were about drinking and how, as hall director of South Scott hall, I don't know if I ever got to sleep before two o'clock in the morning on a weekend just because of the general noise level. And it wasn't in the building, it was outside. And that made it tough because a lot of students had the perception that any kind of successful program had to involve alcohol and so a lot of hall programs did involve beer. We would never serve hard liquor but beer, which, same thing. But then the drinking age changed to nineteen which got really funky because we'd have these hall events and there would be beer but some people could drink and some people couldn't. So, we had to fence off the area for people that were of age and then they wore wristbands, the whole thing was just crazy. And we spent so much time playing these stupid activities 00:26:00because we wanted, we thought if they're drinking here, it's safer than wherever they're gonna go. When the drinking age changed to twenty one, it really changed the tenor of residence hall living and what would happen was granted, we would still have alcohol, no question about it, but to people, generally speaking, now, today's staff would disagree with you but they weren't around twenty five years ago. The tenor is different because the people that are drinking tend to be more quiet about it or they go off campus. So, in my opinion, while i have mixed feelings about the change in drinking age because if you're eighteen, you're an adult, but, as a university administrator, it's made our jobs easier. Because people are just, if a person is quietly sitting in their room watching a football game having a beer, we'r4e never gonna know about it. And we generally don't respond to drinking per say, we respond to obnoxious behavior and noise is what we're responding to. So, I think that our halls are much nicer places since 00:27:00the drinking age changed to twenty one. Very different than they used to be.
JR: Awesome. And that obviously helped you to be a lot more productive in kindof planning activities without having that aspect of it
TF: We didn't have to worry about the alcohol, people just couldn't drink.
TF: It was easy.
JR: Perfect. When it comes to different events like pub crawl or differentthings like that where it still kind of gets in the way just because it's such a big thing, what kind of things do you guys put together to try and respond to that, try and get kids to stay away from that?
TF: Well, a couple of years ago it was an unusually warm spring day for pubcrawl and nobody was prepared, from the university to the community and it was bad. It was bad primarily in the surrounding neighborhoods but it really bled into the residence halls and there was a lot of really bad behavior and there was damage and all kinds of stuff and so after that the university and 00:28:00administration at all levels and the city really got together and said we gotta plan better for the next one and so now we have a system where we don't allow guests that weekend and we make a couple exceptions for people that are here for recruits but our security system is far better than it was 15 years ago anyway but we've just been tightening things up a lot so security stations generally go from 9pm to 3am we just ran them for 24 hours those 2 and a half days and so actually from a pub crawl perspective, residence halls is pretty much a non-issue at this point. Now that first year horizon was miserable because there were so many guests and the funny things is when people who aren't associated with the university come here they just don't care and so they do damage and they do bad things and it's like we'll nobody knows me and hey just don't have any ownership and so once we changed, with the help of the university police, 00:29:00and the dean of students office, once we changed how we managed guests and locking floors and everything it really made pub crawl kind of a non-event for us. It is still a big deal in the neighborhoods and stuff you know this last one had great weather and what's ironic is usually I'll walk around with the city police the night of pub crawl just to kind of see how things are and when I've been downtown, downtown is not that bad basically downtown is just trying to get people not to J walk and not to be totally ridiculous you know because most of the bars have security and they card people because they don't want the problems and so downtown is busy but it's not crazy but the house parties are crazy and when I was in a car, we were traveling with police through the neighborhood and the stuff you see is just, and the situations they have to confront is just 00:30:00general obnoxiousness and it's like you just feel bad to be a police officer and we had to haul one guy to jail and that piece is pretty ugly but the fact is that ok campus it's really a non-issue for us because we really just tighten up our security
JR: Yeah and with an event that big the only thing you really respond to is tomake sure the students that ARE on campus are safe and that you don't see any issues there for house parties, it's a lot harder to control.
TF: It is and although as I walked around the irony is it's the same weekend asspecial Olympic which we host here. The basketball tournament, it's huge it's like 700 people, maybe 1000 people. And so I go to the special Olympics you know and I'm totally inspired by these teams and you got all these student volunteers 00:31:00all over the place and then I walk three blocks away during the lunch hour on a Saturday and there are huge house parties and people are half in the bag and it's not even one o'clock in the afternoon and it's just such a big contrast and I can tell already the apartments down towards downtown were just really ugly and I didn't walk down that far but I could just tell looking from campus and I think in this particular pub crawl the landlords learned a lesson because there were people on the roof of one of the buildings which is allowable but they had way more people than what the roof is supposed to have and then you watch people right over here on the porches they have there would be like 20 people on a porch and I'd go those porches are not designed to hold 20 people and I think the landlords finally woke up when they realized well if this falls and people die they're in serious trouble and people's judgment is just not good and so 00:32:00they got people off the roof and they started enforcing some rules with you know people on their porches but it's just weird how on campus it was really a non-issue for us because we are very strict about what we do now.
JR: Yeah! Reslife as a whole, terms of importance to the campus, now versus youknow back then and besides being he hall director you've been here a lot longer before that how have you seen the importance change like how much more important is it now versus back then
TF: well I think school is a lot more expensive now which it means people haveto be a lot more serious because they're making a bigger financial commitment. In others ways it's sort of unfortunate because I think people expect a higher 00:33:00level of service because they're paying a lot of money. Now relatively speaking, Oshkosh is not terribly expensive but it's not nothing unknown you used to be able to, for a few hundred dollars you could, that was a year of college when I first started. Well that's just not the case anymore so I think that with that comes higher expectations which is fine because they're paying a lot of money and they should. I also think that we had a lot of challenges with alcohol which were far worse than they are now. Mental health has become a much bigger issue and just people general anxiety levels are so much higher. We have so many students coming to us on some form of medication which was just not the case a generation ago and it's just changed the relationship between universities and their students and the families and it's almost as though we play more of a parental role which I don't think we want to do I mean I don't want to do that but there's an expectation that you know, I'm gonna send my child off to college 00:34:00and their gonna be safe and their needs are doing to be met and it's just really changed what we do we're much more sophisticated the way we change CA staff is just much more different I mean, when I started here you had one CA per floor like in Scott hall well, that's a long corridor so you had one CA per floor for 60 students but we realized about 10 years ago it's like, that's not working I mean that CA their job is basically to do whatever they can to maintain some semblance of order and it's like well the expectations for the job are different because their students will tell them oh I'm anxious I'm depressed, whatever and so then we move to 2 CAs in Scott Hall and Gruenhagen and now we have 2 CAs in most buildings and then in fletcher the way it's mapped out we have 3 CAs on each floor and the goal is to try and get a 1 to 25 ratio between CAs and students and that's just a reflection of the different expectations and needs that's students and their families have and so in that sense it's forced us to 00:35:00partner more closely together to help us with the issues that students bring to us I mean now we're to the point where we have emotional assistance animals, well 5 years ago no one knew what that was. Well we have animals in our buildings now we have a couple cats and other things and it's like we get requests all the time and you can't say yes or no independently, we work with the dean's office, we work with the health center, I mean there is a constant level of collaboration I mean there's a person in the dean's office who recently passed away sadly and she did all the disability services and it's like well, we work with that person three times a week on stuff. University police we work with them every day, with something. Health center, at least two times a week. Because we have special accommodations and so the demands are great but I also think we're much better at handling problems because when I first started we recognized people who had problems but we didn't have the resources to help 00:36:00accommodate and they didn't recognize it themselves. No there is a much better chance that a student is gonna come to us and and they're gonna know, you know, oh I'm depressed or I'm anxious I'm this, I'm that, and I'm on medication and I'm on this and we just have to be able to accommodate that better so I think in that respect we're much better at dealing with student needs than we used to be but it puts a lot of pressure on staff and when we talk about emergency management and emergency things like when people are suicidal it's like well, and we deal with this on practically a weekly basis it's like, you can't expect an undergraduate sophomore CA, I mean they can handle it but here is a limit to what they can do, you know, they're not a trained professional and so the way we train them we tell them there are things you need to look for and then as soon as these hinge happen you need to be calling somebody so they can get in there and do it but if you were to talk to a CA whose brand new and they have his 00:37:00perception of how the jobs going to be and then you talk to them at the end of the semester the stories they would tell you about the stuff they had to deal with that they had no idea. The good news is most of them deal with it beautifully and it's really good for them because it's like "I dealt with this person and that person and this eating disorder and suicide" whatever and it's like they come out a lot stronger but it's hard to appreciate what they're gonna deal with before they actually do it I mean we train them to death but training is one thing it's like a practice and a race it's like, some people are really good at practice, but not so good at the race and it's the kind of thing that there is only so much that we can ask of a CA but again we have a lot more CAs than we used to have because the needs have changed and the expectations of the students and their parents have changed dramatically and so it's forced us to collaborate.
JR: Perfect! And obviously in collaboration, although it's forced, it's good tobe able to have them. Now oh talked about mental illness and how it has changed 00:38:00and obviously you already had the collaboration so that's not much of an issue, but is there any way that reslife kind of advertises to parents things like, not that they're going to have mental illness when they come here, but that if that becomes an issue, we have services here.
TF: We do. And we're very involved in freshmen orientation so when we do parentpresentations were involved in both and so the way you do it is, any other kind of service, like right now, customization is huge, where people are looking for what they can get that is specifically unique to me and so I think we promote the idea that we can customize our services to a point so that we try and send a 00:39:00message to parents and families it's like if your student, your son or daughter has some unique needs, you need to let us know that, and then we provide various avenues for that whether it's just an email to our general account, phones numbers for some of us here in this office, visiting the office and training people in the front office how to manage it, so it's really done that way and like from a disability accommodation that's a huge thing, it's more a question of knowing who do I call because everybody's needs are a little bit different but they have to be able to trust that when they call we're going to be kind and supportive and understanding and so there's ways to send that message in a variety of venues and I do think we do a fairly good job of hat and again, we need to have a trusting relationship with our colleagues because someone in the dean's office may become aware of something before we do, someone who's a professor may get information about a student that we don't have, and so as long as there's avenues for them to share that with someone who can get it back to us 00:40:00then it works a lot better, by the way I kind of thought about this when you asked that question but one of the biggest changes on this campus for the better has been the addition of the rec center. Now when you look at like a before and after, before the rec center everybody was fighting for space in Albee and Kolf and you had to fight with the football team the basketball team whoever and I was a part of a group that played basketball every Saturday morning, and it was students and it was staff and we would go to Kolf, hoping that it was open, because it was supposed to be but it wasn't always open, and if it was could we get a ball, I mean you never knew, and if that wasn't open could we go to Albee and if there was somebody else there then there was only x amount of space and we couldn't do it. And we're talking about 8 in the morning here this is Saturday morning and now I get to work at 7:30 in the morning and there's people LEAVING the rec center. Students! And I just bunk it's been one of the greatest 00:41:00additions to this campus and when I think about when drinking age was 18 had we had that nonalcoholic alternative, where even if you drink, if you like to work out and you had some place to go Friday night, it just would've changed the tone of this campus and I just think for us, in residence halls, it's given students a healthy place to go and it's a social thing! People get to meet people there and they get to participate in activities and it's a place designated for them. And so Kolf can be used for whatever practice is happening, I mean the only issues I hear with the rec center is people who like to do free weights complain sometimes because if they get there early in the morning there's a sports team there and it's probably, I would say the free weight area is probably too small, but that's a minor complaint considering before that we had nothing. Really. So that's made a huge difference in the life of this campus.
JR: Yeah! I mean I know quite a few teams that you know, you find them at the00:42:00rec center for quite a bit of their practice as well just because it's such a solid tool! And I know especially for my cross country and track team for people who are injured it's a great sense of utility for you know just kind of cross training whether it's biking or anything like that.
TF: And we didn't use to have a strength coach! I mean, our team doctor is thePacker's team doctor. We've got a recruitment advantage. Say well, if you do get hurt, Dr. McKenzie can take a look at you. It's kind of cool.
JR: Absolutely. I kind of wanted to touch on one other thing that you guyscollaborate with that I think is huge and it also impacts a lot of students in project success. You talk about, we talked earlier about mental health stuff and 00:43:00although this isn't exactly mental health but it's also students that you talked about earlier that don't see the potential in themselves but we see that potential in them and this is just one of those programs so if you could just explain how you collaborate with them.
TF: Well we house a summer program for project success in Taylor Hall wherestudents come to try and get a head start, really, on college and help understand that they take a couple classes, I believe, and they sort of get acclimated to college life. We do it with the CAPP program too. So, our summer hall staff in Taylor work very closely with these students and with that program and once the school year starts then of course they transition. Most of them live in a residence hall and our staff is very much aware of who these students are. There are members of our staff that work with the staff of project success to do the best that we can for the students. We have both had transitions in terms of staff over the years so sometimes it's a closer relationship than other 00:44:00times depending on if they're transitioning and the person transitioning may not be perfect. I think project success for me, it's been here as long as I've been here or very close to as long. As a hall director i learned a lot because i had students that were in the project. Talk about individual customization. The way those learning challenges manifested themselves was very individual and there was a social component to that and it really forces us to constantly be learning. Because we can say, this is a project success student, but we can't make too many assumptions about that. So then why the project? What's the specific issue? Is it dyslexia? Is it some other kind of related thing? How is it impacting them, how did they do in high school? What kind of support did they get? That kind of thing. Now sometimes he have had situations where parents who 00:45:00had been used to advocating for their child, and it's not as difficult now but fifteen to twenty years ago there weren't as many services available. So, it's basically the mom or dad's job to advocate in the school system to make sure their child's needs are being met. What they're not used to is they get here, first of all, this is not high school and the kid is really living on their own now. The other thing is we don't keep tabs on people, because we will occasionally get inquiries from parents of project kids that say well, who's gonna make sure they go to bed on time? Who's gonna make sure they take their medication? It's well, sorry ma'am, we can't do that. We just can't. But I get the parent's perspective because they've been pushing for their kid all this time and then all of a sudden they get to college and it's a whole different thing. But it's really been something that we try to do as good as we can and try to meet the individual needs of the students and for us it really starts with the summer program. Again, that's been in existence for decades and it's 00:46:00better or worse depending on them because it's a really unique group of students and staff but it's been something that's been forcing us to constantly be learning.
JR: Awesome. Easiest part of the job, hardest part of the job, most rewardingpart of the job?
TF: Okay. I would say the easiest part of the job, because of my strengths lyingin the strategic area, anything involving strategy or big picture stuff is easy. It just comes natural to me. I would say along with that, I'll talk about my relation with USRH because it's been something I've been very devoted to so for me, that just one example. As director, sometimes your presence is more symbolic than anything else so I'll tell my wife, I'll say, all I have to do is show up for a half an hour and people appreciate it. I don't even have to say anything a lot of the time. I'll just go to an event or a meeting and maybe I'll say a couple of things but that means a lot to those people. So that's easy. It's easy 00:47:00to be present if you know how to do it. The hardest part of the job is unfortunately we have had several incidents where students have died and it is by far the worst thing ever. I told our staff sometimes it's an accident, sometimes we have a couple suicides whether in the building at home or whatever, but student death is the worst. I like to tell people there's nothing good about it. I know people will do what they have to do to cope and they say "maybe some good could come of this" and it's like you know what, maybe some good could come out of it but it could have come about some other way. But when you have a nineteen year old person die, it's never natural. It's never, well they lived a good life, there's no way to rationalize it. It's awful. It's just awful. So there have been a couple times where I or members of my staff have had to help families clean out somebody's room because they've passed away. The last time it happened here, there was a suicide situation, and I told my wife this is the 00:48:00kind of thing where there's so many things that you do to fill your gas tank and if you lose your level of gas, it gets renewed somehow but this is the kind of thing where it's all negative. So that's awful. You said easiest, hardest, and most rewarding?
JR: Most rewarding.
TF: Most rewarding is seeing students evolve. I would tell you that one of myfears of being here for a long time is that it's kind of like being a teacher. You get a year older but they're always the same age and I thought that was going to be a problem but it's really not a problem for me. I would tell people that you start as a freshman and you look a certain way and you act a certain way. It's like somewhere around the third year where people don't even look the same anymore. It's the way they carry themselves. I love seeing people come in as new freshman and they're nervous and they're excited and all these other 00:49:00things but by the time they're juniors they've seemed to have found themselves and just the way they walk. They're much more self reassured, they're much more confident. They really look like adults to me. Even though physically they might be the same, they give off a totally different vibe. I love that you can just tell, high school to me, and this is for posterity here, in a lot of ways, I'll quote a friend of mine, is a minimum security prison. Senior year, we have to revisit that whole thing. My daughter is wasting a lot of time at high school right now and for a lot of students, they get to college and once they get through the anxiety piece, they realize, hey, I'm on my own here. You can just see it in their faces. One of the things I love about USRH is these people come in, nobody plans on being in USRH like you don't even know what it is and 00:50:00someone asked me to go to an ice cream social and I went and I met this person and they said we need someone to do this and so they need a hall rep and I see these people at the beginning of the year and by the end of the year it's like they're different people you know, they've met a lot of people they've, you know we have to admit the fact that for a lot of people high school was not fun and they don't like it, and they're tired of it and so they come here and it's like a whole new them and you know I just get a huge kick out of that you know and we just did our end of the year banquet last Friday and to watch these people get these awards and you can never minimize how important that is to get that certificate or that little trophy you know to me it's like whatever but no man you know, they did the best program of the year or whatever it's like, this is huge for these people and I was at an event Thursday at the USRH event where they give out kind of a smaller thing of awards and a student got this award and it's a beautiful trophy uh well, it looks a lot like this one, and she got one 00:51:00of these and I ran into her later that night because being an involved and engaged student she worked with the theater department and so I went to a play and she showed us to our seats and I congratulated her and she said that she was so proud to get her trophy that, you know it's made out of glass, I carried it like holding it to my chest the entire way home because I didn't want it to break and it's just like, you see that kind of stuff and it's like, and we do it every year! Invite me to all the award ceremonies you want because they're all cool because it's all awards it's all positive and we honored the director of HR at our awards banquet and she was stunned, absolutely stunned, the last chancellor, you know this last year we invited him, but typically chancellors have so much going on we typically don't invite him, we invited him and he came 00:52:00and he couldn't believe it. The positivity! We had 150 people all who look like models because they're all dressed up because they love to do that because they never get the chance and it's all positive all the time and it's like, you seem that stuff and it just makes you feel good about young people, it makes you feel good about being on a college campus. The level of positive energy around this place is just incredible and it's been like that since I got here. I think it's a lot more focused now and it's a lot nicer place since I started but there is always been that positive energy. I mean this alumni that just can back last week, she's been gone about 20 years now, she said every time when she was a student here, you know she's a non-drinker, she said every time I was feeling bad or had a need there was somebody or something on this campus that was there to help me. Now, she may not be the typical student but it's like, it's just really cool to see that. You know, it just makes it worth it. And you know, I 00:53:00feel bad for people who don't get this opportunity to work on a college campus and the funny thing is especially working in housing people outside the community go "oh you work in housing? Oh my god" you know they have his image of like it's a correctional facility you know, people going wild, it's like well, there's some of that but for the most part it's people that are gonna go away and get good jobs, become school board members and members of the rotary and all that kind of stuff you know and it's just a real cool thing!
JR: That's awesome! Now coming towards the end of your career I believe
TF: Yep! Well here anyway.
JR: Looking forward for reslife as you leave here. What do you hope for theprogram what do you hope to see for it in the future?
TF: Well, I think one of the biggest challenges we have right now is we havebeen very fortunate because we're what's called an auxiliary so we generate all of our own revenue so where as other parts of the university have really been 00:54:00hard pressed and we've been supporting a lot of people financially around this place believe me and we've always been fortunate that way, but we've had a couple years where you know the incoming freshmen class number are not good and that affects us directly and if they're not freshmen then they're not sophomores the next year so it carries all the way through so our financial picture whereas two years ago three years ago was really incredibly positive, it's really not as Rodney anymore so unless things turn around on an enrollment standpoint and I think they're starting to but I don't think we'll see the impact for a couple of years there are going to be a couple of challenges and to me the biggest one is we need to continue to upgrade our facilities to better meet the needs of students of their families and the biggest example I'll give it south Scott hall, we went through we redid every floor, we painted, we carpeted, we got new doors we refinished everything and it's very nice, you know compared to north Scott, people like north Scott but it looks a lot better right now and now we're 00:55:00doing that to north Scott. The one thing we didn't get to do that has to be done is we need to redo the bathrooms. I mean when you think about it most of our people come to us and they probably had their own room and there's a chance they shared a bathroom with 2-3 other people. In some cases they had their own bathroom. And now they go to this group situation and while we provide some privacy it's just it's the biggest single complaint from our students is bathrooms and so, when you look at horizon, or you look at Taylor, and when you look at the new fletcher, the bathrooms are awesome, you know, it's just short of having your own bathroom and the problem with that is it's sounds mundane but to renovate the bathrooms is gonna cost an incredible amount of money and I have a feeling right now that the mood on campus is not towards improving facilities, and that coupled with some financial challenges I think are gonna be a problem for us. I also think that we need to keep updating our facilities period because it's a recruitment thing. Again, we're the number one second choice you know, 00:56:00and it's like, we need to persuade people that this is a nice place and having a nice facility is a part of that. The other part is I do think right now today there is some reorganization going on and I think it's threatening the quality of our program and our ability to serve students you know, my position is not being filled and there is another significant position who's in charge of reorganizing, that position is not being filled. We had two leaders in our department who moved to other jobs and their positions were not filled so we're at a point where if the university expects certain things out of the residence hall program, we don't really have the resources to do some of those things. Some decisions are going to have to be made and I think that's going to be painful and I'm sorry that I'm not going to be here for that because I think that part of being a leader is sometimes you have to lead your program through tough times but I think tough times are coming and I'm not confident that the 00:57:00university is really appreciative of how hard this is gonna be and again, we capture 90% of our students live I our residence halls, those people are more likely to persist than people who don't live in residence halls. Is like, that is important. And my perception is it's just not gonna be a priority for the university the next few years and I think we're going to pay a price.
JR: Do you have any voice or say in your position?
TF: I have some opinions in which I have shared but you have to understand thatwhen a person is leaving, you reach a point where, and my bosses have been great! I have been blessed with wonderful supervisors, but at some point the reality hits well this guy is leaving, you know, thank you for your input haha you know, so my job between now and when I leave is to help the remaining team transition to what we have and I have been working with my boss and others to 00:58:00just voice my opinion and the problem is there is certain fiscal realities that I think are forcing their hand a little bit and they're making decisions because they have to or they feel like they have to but I think, in answer to your question, yes I can voice my opinions but the closer I get to retirement the less influence I have and that's just the way it goes. It's like being a lame duck president or senator where you can say whatever you want but you're not the person in charge, so you stop getting invited to meetings which is fine with me by the way, so I have some influence but it's dwindling.
JR: So kinda just prepare your troops for the rain!
TF: Absolutely that's my job now!
JR: Absolutely! Well perfect, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate itand uh ya, thanks!
TF: Alright, no problem, Jake