Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately referred to Ian Robins, Christie hall director, as “non-religious.” The term “non-religious” has been omitted to more accurately describe Robins.
Five new hall directors joined the UP community this semester in Kenna, Mehling, Corrado, Christie and Villa Maria as new leaders to their dorms. A few weeks into the semester, Shaylene Smith, Sarah Hill, Brenagh Sanford, Ian Robins and Derek Block have all been settling into their new roles.
From appearing in the movie “National Treasure” to owning roughly 320 bottles of wine, the new hall directors are adding their unique views and experiences to The Bluff.
Shaylene Smith, Kenna Hall
Smith, also known as Superwoman according to Hill, is a natural leader who is always willing to take charge. Smith was a child actor who appeared in “National Treasure” and the television show “My Wife and Kids.” She was a college golfer and trained with ex-MMA fighters.
One of Smith’s goals for this year is to present a paper she and Hill are writing, focusing on compassion fatigue amongst higher education professionals. She said she believes one of the most critical aspects of being a good hall director is making sure she doesn't get fatigued or burned out.
“It goes back to the idea of not being able to help others without helping yourself,” Smith said. “That's why we are in this line of work, to help students and to walk with students on their journey and be here as a resource.”
This ties in with what Smith wants to do after UP, which is going into community standards policy.
“I did an internship in the student conduct office and I have been really community standards driven,” Smith said. “I love the aspect of restorative education specifically finding a way to make a punitive process not punitive."
Sarah Hill, Mehling Hall
Other hall directors describe Hill as a supportive, kind and selfless person. Hill, a Portland native and UP grad, enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband in their Prius. She is also an avid runner who loves taking weekend getaway trips to Tillamook.
During her time as a student, Hill and her fraternal twin went to college at the same time their mother — a first-time college student — was finishing up her nursing degree at UP. The three would often get lunch together.
Having been a student herself, Hill’s advice to freshmen is that it’s okay not to have friends right away.
“It takes about 147 hours in order to turn an acquaintance into a best friend,” Hill said. “Knowing that you probably came from a school system where you hung out with the same people every single day for 8 hours a day and that doesn't happen here.”
Her goal this year is to continue to make Mehling a great place to live and to support her hall staff to the best of her abilities. Although she does not have a clear picture of what she wants to do after leaving UP, she knows she wants to continue working with students on a one-on-one level.
Ian Robins, Christie Hall
Robins is known as the quiet, kind-hearted leader of Christie — a dog and plant fanatic, and the proud owner of roughly 320 bottles of wine. If Robins is not in Christie or at home with his dog, he is probably working at his part-time job at the Japanese winery, Torii Mor.
Coming into UP, Robins worried about the religious nature of the school. Identifying as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, he worried that he would not feel welcomed on The Bluff.
After arriving, Robins said he felt and continues to feel welcomed and comfortable on campus. He said he wants to extend that kindness to everyone else in Christie and on campus.
“I haven't had one negative experience (at UP),” Robins said. “It’s been a really positive part of my employment and part of being a grad student, I feel very open and welcome here and haven't had a bad experience.”
Robins graduated with a master's in higher education and student affairs and hopes to work on a college campus. One of the events he is most looking forward to this year is the annual Christie and Villa soccer game in early April.
Derek Block, Villa Maria Hall
Once a villain, always a villain is a sentiment former four-year Villa resident and current Villa Hall director, Block, believes in.
Block loves exploring new places and experiencing different cultures. Before coming to UP, he lived in Chile for a year and a half, barely knowing any Spanish before he went.
“It really pushed my boundaries,” Block said. “I had to learn to be really adaptable, and I just love that ability to walk outside and have it be all new — new language, new stores, new farmers market.”
According to Block, he is a relatable person, a self-described jack of all trades and plays the guitar and piano. He also enjoys video games and playing soccer.
Living in Villa and working as an RA for two years gives Block a different perspective than other Hall Directors because he understands first-hand what it means to live in Villa. Block said he hopes to be able to foster the same robust relationships he formed while he lived in Villa as an undergraduate.
Brenagh Sanford, Corrado Hall
Sanford, a tea-drinking, knitter in Corrado Hall is described by her colleagues as one of the warmest and most loving individuals this campus has to offer.
She lived abroad in Australia where she learned to love the divisive salty food spread vegemite. Her fondness for knitting and Australia is surpassed by one thing: her unconditional love for Harry Potter. She has been to the Harry Potter amusement park in Orlando twice, has read the entire series multiple times and has a Harry Potter tattoo above her wrist.
Working in Residence Life is not new to Sanford. She was the Hall Director in a hall of 250 freshman boys at the University of South Carolina and worked as the Assistant Hall Director in Mehling last year.
Sanford already has her master’s in higher education and student affairs. After she is done at UP, she wants to move into academic advising.
“We have such a unique opportunity to walk with students through every experience they have,” Sanford said. “It’s a privilege to be with them and support them and for them to trust us.”
William Seekamp is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org