In a corner office on the third floor of Bartlett Hall, Kristin Gourley said that she has been busy her first school year as Maryville College’s new director of campus life, overseeing residence life and student activities. Gourley took over the position after Michelle Ballew-Safewright’s departure, a 16-year veteran of the position.
“It’s sometimes hard to follow a fountain of knowledge like Michelle, but I just want to make sure that we maintain support for students through the transition,” Gourley said.
Even with Ballew-Safewright’s shoes to fill, Gourley said that her passion for supporting and encouraging students has led to a nearly seamless changeover. She said that the staff of residence directors and administrative personnel have adapted smoothly to the change, offering continual encouragement to Gourley.
Gourley said that she first discovered a passion for working with college students when she was a student herself. As a resident assistant at the University of Tennessee, Gourley said that she found her calling for student affairs, which prompted her to seek a master’s degree in college student personnel.
“There’s something about college-aged students,” Gourley said. “There’s an energy about them that I love to be around, even though my mom just thought that I wanted to still be a student.”
It was during her time as a post-graduate student that Gourley first came to MC, where she began as the student activities intern in 2004. The following year, she was hired as the director of student involvement, a position she held for 7 years. Many current students know her from this previous role, she said, which involved managing all of MC’s student organizations and moderating the Student Programming Board (SPB).
Gourley said that less student interaction is one of the only downsides to her new position as director of campus life.
“I miss working with SPB, and students don’t stop into my office as much now that I’m all the way up on the third floor,” Gourley said.
Maryville College alumna and former SPB team leader, Bridget Sternisha, said that she credits Gourley as one of the most influential mentors during her time as a student at the college.
“I knew Kristin’s door was always open to me and other students for a chat,” Sternisha said. “Whether we were having a bad day, needed life advice or wanted to share an exciting accomplishment, she always listened and gave great advice, even if it wasn’t what you wanted to hear.”
Gourley said that she enjoys giving advice, especially when it comes to college students starting on a career path.
“It’s easy to get up and go to work if what you’re doing is what you’re passionate about,” Gourley said.
She also said that she believes students should remember to go into a field for the right reasons, especially if they are interested in a career in student affairs.
“Working in student affairs is not an extension of college, but it is very rewarding and worth it,” Gourley said.