Before undertaking her new position as the Residence Director (RD) of Davis Hall here at Maryville College, Rachel Hansen had always felt that student affairs in higher education was her calling. In her heart, she felt that student life at a small, private liberal arts college was where she truly belonged.
As an undergraduate, Rachel was a highly involved and self-accomplished student on campus. Some of the activities and societies Hansen participated in include: President of the Student Government Association for two years, Member of the Board of Trustees Academic & Student Affairs Committee, FOCUS Freshman Orientation Leader, Touchstone Leadership Development Program, NCAA Division III Cross Country & Track team captain, Editor for the Fontbanner Student Newspaper and member of the National Communication Association (Lambda Pi Eta). In 2011, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations.
Before becoming the new RD for Davis, Hansen taught English in Thailand for a year and shortly after was an Academic Coach for the University of Tennessee Student Success. During this time, she was also pursuing her Master of Science degree in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services. In order to fulfill part of her graduate work, she undertook a summer internship with Allison Norris, Assistant Dean of Students at MC, managing Great Beginnings, the summer orientation program all freshmen go through before attending MC.
Although academic support and student life may seem like two very different realms of student affairs, Hansen relishes any chance to work with college students. However, the traditions and peculiarities of Residence Life at MC were new to her.
“I knew I needed experience,” Hansen admits, “so, I jumped at the opportunity to do it at such a wonderful institution.”
Upon arriving on campus, Hansen explains that the process in itself was a giant transition. She moved into Davis Hall 24 hours before her Residence Assistants (RAs), and once they arrived, Hansen confesses to having gone to each of them with all sorts of questions — eventually answered by a tour of the entire building. She describes the “newcomer experience” as being very humbling. When asked to recall a story of something crazy that has happened in her brief time as an RD, Hansen was stumped.
“Maybe I’m still in the honeymoon stage, but I can’t think of one. My residents are awesome and I am receiving great support from both my RAs and the Residence Life Office. However, managing homecoming in my first two months was definitely quite the task,” Hansen said.
Hansen admits that her favorite part about working as a Residence Hall Director and Student Activities Coordinator is that she gets to be involved and connected with the students at MC.
“I interact with so many different groups of students with wonderful, interesting and sometimes heartbreaking stories,” Hansen said. She also reflected on how different her experiences concerning students have been. She explains that at UT, “they were required to meet with me regularly and most were never quite happy to end up in my office. MC students are wonderfully different. I have had such positive experiences thus far.”
Something to know about Hansen if you haven’t met her yet is that she is known as the Cat Lady since she is the proud parent of two cats, Dylan and Ziggy, both of whom have very distinct personalities. In her free time, Hansen enjoys frequenting antique and thrift stores. Because her suite is considerably larger than her previous one near UT campus, it has only increased the amount of interesting décor that she brings home. She also likes to read, especially novels about higher education. Due to her love of books, in the lobby of Davis, she has the idea of creating a small library for girls to borrow and share their favorite books. As the new Davis Hall RD, Hansen is happy to have company from whomever would like to stop by and chat.
With the help of her staff, Rachel hopes to establish a community grounded in respect and empowerment. “A building of women has great potential for fostering positive change and creating strong, educated leaders,” Hansen said. “I want to give my residents the support they need to grow and feel confident in themselves.”