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College coordinators on office pop-ins and close connections

Courtesy Ewart Jones

By Nicole Lhuillier     9/17/19 9:38pm

What keeps a residential college running? College governments manage internal and external affairs; the adult residents make sure nothing goes awry. But when it comes to everyday operations, the answer is simple: the college coordinator. 

It’s easy to forget this when everything seems to be going smoothly — a sign that the college coordinator is effective, Joyce Bald, Hanszen College coordinator,  said. 

“If we don’t do our job well, then people will start noticing, and by people I mean students and faculty and administration higher than us,” Bald said.

There’s much more to the job than handing out candy and registering mail. Wiess College coordinator Ewart Jones said that coordinators’ responsibilities consist mostly of administrative tasks that no one sees them do — although work often varies. On some weekdays this semester, for instance, he stays late to teach Wiess’ CTIS class.

While their work is critical, Bald and Jones both agree that spontaneous interactions with students are the highlights of the job. 

“Just knowing that students feel like they can come to me with issues — that’s always nice and helps me to feel better about what I’m doing here,” Bald said. “[I’m] building that trust and that rapport with students.”

Jones said his job allows him to see individuals grow over the course of their time at Rice.

“I think the cool part about the job is being able to be a part of young adults’ lives in these four years and support them in their college experience,” Jones said. “It’s so transitional and formative … It really is an honor to be there.”

Bald said that supporting the magisters, Housing and Dining, the dean of undergraduates and the students means that coordinators aren’t stuck in a routine. 

“It doesn’t get boring,” Bald said.

Jones and Bald, who have been college coordinators for six and 14 years, respectively, said they have formed valuable relationships with students and know how to best handle matters specific to their colleges. Bald said she does her job with Hanszenites in mind. 

“The wording of an email to my students is going to be very different than [an email] to Wiess students and to different colleges,” she said.

The coordinators have also found community beyond their colleges. The 11 college coordinators may all be different, but they make a close group, Bald said. 

“We depend on each other because there’s no one at this university who has a job like ours,” Bald said. “We do meet on a regular basis … and we call each other all the time.”

Bald said that the bonds that the coordinators make with students surpass the constraints of undergraduates’ time at Rice. Bald said she felt honored when an alumna returned recently and asked her for career advice. 

“You definitely have this great opportunity to create community and keep in touch with people,” Jones said. “The coolest thing is when graduates come back — and they come back to your office specifically to see you.”

Just as Bald and Jones appreciate their unique opportunity to connect to young people, Hanszen senior Brian Chen said students are grateful for coordinators’ receptiveness and warmth.

“Every time I stop by and talk for a few minutes, [Bald is] always really friendly and fun to talk to,” Chen said.

Students recognize the impact of coordinators in their colleges and their own lives.

“[Jones is] really a part of the culture,” Drew Morales, a Wiess senior, said. “He’s always got something funny to say with all the students here. He really is a part of our family.”

Similarly, Jones compared his position to a parent’s role.

“I say it’s half director of operations, half den mother,” Jones said.

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