by Hanna Schutte ’11
Living in a residence hall can be a challenge.
Luckily for students, a friendly, helpful face is available just down the hall in each Gustavus residence. These helpful fellow students are CFs, or Collegiate Fellows.
The CFs are student residence hall leaders, hired and trained by the Office of Residential Life.
“A CF is someone who can be there for other students,” says Justin Lund, a senior health education and physical education major who is in his third year as a CF. “CFs put on cool programs and are a link to everyone and everything on campus. As a CF in a freshman dorm for my first two years, I enjoyed helping students get used to the campus.”
CFs are like RAs (Resident Assistants) on other campuses. Why “CF?” According to Troy Seppelt, the associate director of residential life, the College made the decision in the early 1970s to change the name and add a focus on academic excellence to the then “RA” role. Since then the student staff have been called “Collegiate Fellows.”
CFs arrive 12 days before first-year students move in. During this time, CFs participate in extensive training related to a variety of tasks—community development, managing conflict/roommate issues, responding to physical/mental health concerns, connecting students with needed resources (student activities, health service, counseling, academic advising, etc.), event planning, and College policy. They also participate in community service, including picking up trash in the arboretum and road ditches along Highway 169. The training theme for 2010 was “iCF.”
“The most important part of being a CF is to be an example,” says Shalanda Staten, a senior religion and sociology & anthropology major and a second-year CF. “You are supposed to be available and be a person to talk to—a person who maintains a sense of community on campus. We give options and solutions for every situation.”
“The number one job of the Collegiate Fellow is to help foster a safe and supportive environment in the residence halls that is conductive to both academic achievement and personal growth,” says Seppelt.
CFs are in charge of inspecting rooms before students move in, checking in students upon arrival, performing safety tasks, supporting college policy, being on duty evenings and weekends, and putting together educational and developmental programs.
“You can really see that our focus is community development, academics and personal growth by checking the numbers: last year the residential life staff organized more than 840 programs attended by more than 18,900 students (that is a lot of repeat customers)” says Seppelt.
Coordinating with many offices on campus, including the Dean of Students, Campus Safety, Advising Center, and Alcohol and Drug Education, CFs are an important link between students and the administration. “We are definitely the go-to people with any questions. If we don’t have the answer, we know someone who does, or can tell you where to go to get the answers you are looking for,” says Staten.
“The great part about our staff is that we are very diverse,” says Seppelt. “Some are more quiet, others more outgoing—some are athletes, others musicians soon-to-be teachers, scientists, businesspeople, dancers, poets, psychologists, coaches, and the list goes on. Of course we look for students who have interpersonal skills, a clear understanding of the CF role and its importance to the institution, and who have a desire to serve. The CF role is often larger and more complex than students understand, so we are also looking for staff who themselves are willing/able to learn and grow.”
While the CF staff is in the residence halls to keep students safe, the benefits of holding the position extend beyond getting paid and receiving free cable TV service. Lund’s learned a lot being a CF: “Communication, definitely. Also leadership—and learning how to be a person, who is the same age, that others can look up to,” he says. “And responsibility—you have to be able to take the role of a responsible leader if something happens, so you can be the person for them to come to if they are in need.”
Senior English major and third-year CF Dominic Xiong says, “I’ve learned how to work well with people I otherwise wouldn’t have met or be friends with. We’re building leadership skills and responsibility—there’s a certain level of responsibility that you need to be able to deal with floor issues.”
“A CF is a leader on campus that isn’t above you. You can go to them for help, but you don’t have to go to someone that’s in a higher position. At the same time, they’re someone you can look up to. As a freshman, I was having trouble deciding on a major, so I went to my CF to talk. We’re someone you know that you can go to,” Lund says.
A CF is there for everything—someone to talk to about your major, plan fun events to encourage bonding as a floor or a section, or help in an emergency. It’s hard to imagine a Gustavus without them.