The Position

Reporting to the Vice President for Student Affairs and serving as a vital member of the Student Affairs Leadership Team, the Director of Housing & Residential Services functions as the institution’s chief housing officer and provides vision, leadership, and strategic direction for a comprehensive department of Housing & Residential Services and Parking Services Management. In collaboration with University Financial Services and the Massachusetts State College Building Authority (MSCBA), the Director effectively manages a $9 million auxiliary budget, ensures sound fiscal operations, develops processes and initiatives that promote a high level of space utilization and occupancy of housing facilities, and coordinates the development of short- and long-range plans for the renovation, maintenance, and improvement of University-owned housing facilities. The Director works in partnership with Capital Planning and Maintenance (CPM) to ensure secure and satisfactory living environments for approximately 1,400 residential students; evaluates and fosters departmental effectiveness and efficiency through ongoing data collection and assessment efforts; and engages an active student body and workforce to foster a welcoming and supportive environment that promotes, values, and supports diversity, equity, and inclusivity. The Director manages, supervises, and provides professional development opportunities for a professional and graduate staff of seven, including four to five direct reports, indirectly oversees 30+ Resident Assistants, and focuses the team toward meaningful learning and exceptional programming, which support student success, retention, and persistence.

SPECIFIC/ADDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES

Leadership

  • Responsible for the overall mission, vision, leadership, and administration of a comprehensive housing and residential services operation
  • Develop a vision and strategies for short- and long-term budget management in collaboration with University Financial Services and the MSCBA
  • Develop a vision and strategies to address preventative maintenance, capital projects, and auxiliary projects in collaboration with Capital Planning & Maintenance
  • Provide administrative oversight and supervision for professional staff, including hiring, guidance, support, and evaluation of personnel to ensure compliance with applicable laws, policies, and regulations
  • Contribute actively to the recruitment of prospective day students with Enrollment Management
  • Create the vision and ensure the development of marketing materials representing Housing & Residential Services, in consultation with Enrollment Management and Marketing, to attract new students and retain current students

Fiscal/Budget Management

  • Develop and manage a $9 million auxiliary housing budget
  • Develop and oversee a fiscal strategy to manage projects for a facilities master plan
  • Oversee technology contracts (e.g., Adirondack Housing Director and Parking Management Software)
  • Review and revise the Housing Occupancy Agreement, as needed, and enforce all community standards and housing contracts

Operations

  • Ensure that occupancy is managed through effective communication and processes and that retention of residential students is a priority
  • Report occupancy and other data to the leadership of the University
  • In conjunction with CPM, ensure that the housing stock is clean, maintained, and safe
  • Oversee and manage parking passes and policies on-campus

Student Development, Health, and Safety

  • Develop, maintain, and facilitate participation in activities directed toward residential communities that value and support diversity, multiculturalism, and inclusiveness
  • Work with staff to respond to emergencies and provide behavioral interventions and case management to students, including counseling, mediation, problem-solving, policy incidents, and referrals of individuals or groups of students regarding personal concerns, academic needs, or policies
  • Serve as a senior-level conduct hearing officer and Title IX investigator/administrative reviewer
  • Serve as a point of contact for students, University officials, and other constituents

Support of the Academic Mission of the University

  • Collaborate with Enrollment Management, Academic Affairs, and other University constituents on student success (retention and persistence) and other initiatives
  • Collaborate with Academic Affairs, the various academic deans, and other constituents to develop, enhance, assess, and evaluate living/learning communities to ensure that each LLC is meeting the desired mission, vision, and goals

Human Resource Development

  • Oversee the recruitment, selection, training, supervision, and evaluation of all Housing & Residential Services professional and student staff
  • Adjust leadership style as needed to achieve results
  • Recognize the value of and promote a diverse workforce
  • Value and encourage diverse perspectives, creativity, and teamwork

Other

  • Represent Housing & Residential Services, the Vice President for Student Affairs, and the Division of Student Affairs on campus-wide committees and initiatives as interested or assigned
  • Serve on or ensure departmental representation on the CARE Team and Bias Incident Response Team
  • Maintain a flexible work schedule, which includes evening and weekend responsibilities, to foster student engagement and promote senior-level visibility at student events and programs
  • Support the First-Year Experience and Retention Initiatives
  • Serve as University Essential Personnel

QUALIFICATIONS AND CHARACTERISTICS

A master’s degree in student personnel, higher education administration, or related area, and progressive mid- to senior-level experience within a university housing and residential life operation, are required. Other requirements include demonstrated proficiency with budget development and management; knowledge of and experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion work; program planning and project management skills; proven communication skills; the ability to maintain a sense of fairness, sensitivity, and sound judgment in emotionally-charged situations; and demonstrated supervisory skills that foster a motivated staff and build an effective team. Preferred qualifications include experience in and understanding of assessment techniques, co-curricular initiatives, professional training programs, living/learning communities, crisis and emergency response, student conduct processes, Title IX, and student counseling.

Other desired characteristics, skills, actions, and abilities noted from the stakeholder discussions include:

  • A solid background in the administration and management of housing facilities, including daily operations, safety, capital projects, and deferred maintenance.
  • Demonstrated experience in residence life programming and services, focusing on student development principles.
  • Strong and inspirational leadership skills and the ability to build a strategic vision.
  • Sound budgeting and finance acumen, the skill to be strategic in all fiscal decisions and recommendations, a solid business and auxiliary mentality, and the ability to effectively articulate complex finances to the administration.
  • A dynamic partnership builder and collaborator within Housing & Residential Services, across the Division of Student Affairs, and with external colleagues and key partners, including, but not limited to, Capital Planning and Maintenance, University Financial Services, the MSCBA, Enrollment Management, and Academic Affairs.
  • An innovator with a futuristic and entrepreneurial orientation, and someone willing to try new opportunities, remain informed on recent trends and best practices, and lead significant change processes as necessary.
  • An excellent and transparent communicator with active listening skills and the ability to reach all levels of the University, especially in advocating for the needs and telling the story of Housing & Residential Services.
  • A mindset that prioritizes diversity, equity, inclusivity, accessibility, and social justice in all areas of the role, with a solid understanding of the importance of cultural competencies in administering the facets of the job.
  • Robust organizational development and problem-solving skills.
  • A strategic and data-informed decision-maker who can think fast on their feet when necessary.
  • An ethical steward of resources who possesses the utmost sense of integrity and honesty.
  • An ardent supporter of students, the ability to relate to, engage, and connect with students, an understanding of the changing needs of today’s student body, and someone who values students’ opinions.
  • A willingness to be visible on campus, participate in the daily life of Housing & Residential Services and Fitchburg State University, and engage students and staff on all levels.
  • Political savvy and tact, critical thinking skills, and emotional intelligence.
  • Demonstrated experience in embracing and utilizing new and innovative technology.
  • Adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to pivot quickly when necessary.
  • A commitment to consistent professional development in both themselves and the staff.
  • The ability to make difficult decisions, when necessary, to conduct difficult conversations when pertinent, to listen to all sides of an issue, to build consensus, and to remain “cool under pressure” no matter the situation.
  • Experience in bias response, Title IX, and issues surrounding housing insecurities.
  • A comprehensive commitment to high-end customer service and timely responsiveness to students’ needs.
  • Promotion of a positive work/life balance in themselves and the staff while understanding that Housing & Residential Services is a 24/7 operation.
  • The ability to listen carefully, ask knowledgeable questions, learn the department and University’s culture, accept staff input, and then make well-informed decisions.
  • Demonstrated fundraising abilities and innovative ideas for the development of new streams of revenue.
  • Approachability, relatability, charisma, and a positive, optimistic, and enthusiastic attitude that promotes a sense of belonging at all times.
  • An understanding of mental health issues and their ongoing impact on students.

HISTORY OF THE POSITION

Kristin Murphy served as the Director of Housing & Residential Services from 2011-2018 before accepting another role at the University as the Director of Title IX. Christopher Medley was hired as the next Director and served in that position from 2018-2022. Medley accepted the Associate Dean of Students for Residence Life position at St. Olaf College in July 2022, and Fitchburg State has now partnered with Spelman Johnson to fill this critical role.

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES OF THE ROLE

The Director of Housing & Residential Services must possess a broad and deep understanding of national best practices and innovations regarding housing and residence life operations, finance, technology, and the state institutional setting. The Director should be an experienced or aspiring leader who has had success building and advancing a progressive program at another institution, is capable of managing multiple priorities, and is equipped to contribute at a strategic and tactical level to the vibrant and fast-paced Division of Student Affairs.

Fitchburg State University remains committed to finding a competent and visionary individual to fill this critical campus role. This position is highly-regarded on the campus and will play a pivotal role in promoting the values of the residential experience. Given some pressing enrollment, occupancy, and budgetary needs at Fitchburg State University, the Director of Housing & Residential Services should expect a quick pace and a supportive, collegial working environment as they foster a holistic look at the current and future direction of the housing organization.

The following were identified as possible opportunities, priorities, and challenges facing the new Director of Housing & Residential Services at Fitchburg State University.

  • Fitchburg State University’s environment is highly relational, so the new Director must commit to a comprehensive culture of collaboration and partnering across campus for maximum effectiveness. Fitchburg is committed to building relationships as a core foundation of its campus culture, and strong collaboration is an absolute necessity in all endeavors to ensure success. It will be crucial that the Director quickly reach out across campus to build solid relationships and partnerships to foster an efficient and effective working environment, as well as foster ongoing positive relationships and be a “connector” in all instances. In successfully forging relationships with students, faculty, and staff on campus, there is also the critical opportunity to promote and strengthen a robust residential student experience, specifically within the Living/Learning Communities, and build positive relationships with other campus partners, particularly with Finance and Administration, Enrollment Management, and Capital Planning and Maintenance.
  • The Housing & Residential Services budget is not only extensive but also intricately intertwined with the State of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts State College Building Authority, so the Director must bring a demonstrated fiscal background, successful forecasting experience, and acute attention to financial details to the role.
  • The Director is expected to be very visible and engaged with staff and students and subsequently serve as the expert on and the “face” of Housing & Residential Services at Fitchburg State. Working side-by-side with the professional team promotes unity, camaraderie, and a sense of community within the department, and it shows the student body that the Director, a high-level administrator, is willing to work on their behalf no matter the situation or circumstance. The Director should prioritize getting out of the office and being seen, attending student events, participating in official University activities, and spending quality time within the campus community. To accomplish this, the Director should have excellent communication skills and be able to articulate the “story” of Housing & Residential Services across the University. Because the role also requires close interaction with students, being empathetic, understanding, and transparent in all student encounters is essential for success.
  • The scope of responsibilities for this role is broad and highly impactful on the student experience, so the Director will need to quickly become familiar with all aspects under their purview. The Director will need to prioritize a great deal of time upon arrival for learning the nuances and priorities of the campus, discovering the internal needs of the staff and the department, and beginning the process of establishing the forward-facing direction of the department. A fast pace can be expected, with many entities wanting this person’s attention simultaneously, so the Director must be an effective multitasker and a diplomat at all times. To accomplish these priorities, after an appropriate acclimation period, the Director should undertake a comprehensive “listening tour” to discover both the nature and breadth of the areas for which they are responsible, as well as the needs and desires of campus stakeholders, and subsequently develop an inclusive list of immediate and long-term goals.
  • Capital Planning and Maintenance provides operational support to the housing facilities at Fitchburg (custodial, physical maintenance, etc.), and, in turn, the Director must maintain a strong partnership and transparent communications with CPM at all times to maximize their positive impact on the student experience and be timely and responsive in all circumstances.
  • In recent years, student interest in the residential experience has declined for new and returning students. The Director must actively and creatively advocate for and promote the residential experience to potential and returning students to increase interest and occupancy overall. Subsequently, the Director will have ample opportunity to find innovative ways to market residential living at a regional state university and attract more students to experience the values and advantages of on-campus living.
  • Fitchburg State University is proud of its diverse student body. The department and division are focused on creating a strong sense of belonging rooted in prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion work across the campus, and the Director must be a leader in supporting, understanding, embracing, and nurturing these concepts. There are many underrepresented populations within the institution, and Housing & Residential Services needs to be a model for maintaining a strong sense of equity and an unbiased environment. The new Director should quickly become familiar with the campus climate and proactively participate in campus initiatives for engaging in conversation and action around diversity, equity, and inclusion while working diligently at providing accommodations and accessibility to the various and diverse individuals and groups at Fitchburg.
  • Innovation is a focal point for continually improving the student experience at Fitchburg State. There will be great support for working together to implement new ideas, cutting-edge technology, and national best practices in housing and residence life on campus. While funding is not unlimited and not all new proposals can be undertaken, the Director will find that well-researched ideas accompanied by comprehensive data analysis will be considered and given thorough vetting. The Director should seek out successful housing and residential programs and services at other institutions, determine available professional benchmarking opportunities, and be involved in ACUHO-I or other national or regional associations to remain current on trending issues in the field.
  • The successful candidate will have the opportunity to make a professional impact on the Fitchburg State campus and leave a legacy within the department, including structure, academic initiatives, DEI, and, most importantly, the long-term financial health of the department. The ability to grow, develop, and mentor a dynamic professional staff, while building a solid and dedicated team, will be critical for success. To succeed in this area, the new Director must be a strong motivator with high-level supervisory and staff-development skills. Support for the staff is critical, and professional development at all levels is expected. Navigating the current team’s needs, meeting with each person individually, getting to know the people who comprise the department, and spending quality time in each area will be essential tasks for the new Director.
  • Across the board, stakeholders reiterated that they liked working at Fitchburg State, are very supportive of each other, enjoy the vibrancy of the University, feel much collegiality (with a great deal of support from the top down), and believe that there are many opportunities to make a big difference in the Director role. Additionally, the Fitchburg community welcomes new members, is very involved with the campus, and provides a stable environment to live and work. Finally, according to stakeholders, the quality of life at Fitchburg is fantastic, and the surrounding town’s many great amenities make it a great place to work and live. With Boston, Worcester, and Manchester, NH, nearby, as well as a robust array of outdoor activities, Fitchburg has something for all walks of life.

MEASURES OF SUCCESS

After an appropriate timeframe, the following items will define success for the new Director of Housing & Residential Services.

  • Sound fiscal practices, solid budgeting processes, and strong financial policies are integrated into the Housing & Residential Services core operation, and the Director’s attention is focused on understanding and effectively managing the Housing & Residential Services auxiliary budget.
  • The Director has built a strong rapport with their supervisor and prioritized alignment with University and divisional goals.
  • Solid relationships and partnerships have been established across campus, specifically with Enrollment Management, Finance and Administration, Capital Planning and Maintenance, Academic Affairs, and other peers within the Division of Student Affairs.
  • The Director has begun to develop short- and long-term goals to address on-campus occupancy, including, but not limited to, recruitment, retention, and marketing strategies.
  • Based on climate surveys and performance evaluations, professional staff job satisfaction, morale, and staff retention are high and rising, a culture of caring is being maintained, professional development is abundant, vacant roles are filled, and there is stability in the Housing & Residential Services department.
  • The Director is focused on the overall functionality of the Department of Housing & Residential Services, and efforts are ongoing to create efficiencies where possible and provide support where needed.
  • The Director frequently interacts with students, is seen as approachable and engaged, and is recognized as the “face” of Housing & Residential Services and as a student-centric administrator.
  • There is a distinct focus at all levels on diversity, inclusion, equity, accessibility, and social justice.
  • A clear, fluid, transparent, and forward-thinking strategic vision is emerging for Housing & Residential Services, based on an integrative “listening tour” across the department and among students, administrators, and other prominent stakeholders, as well as active research on current trends and national best practices in housing and residence life.
  • Marketing and clear communication are prevalent and consistent from the Director and the department.

Institution & Location

OVERVIEW OF HOUSING & RESIDENTIAL SERVICES

Housing & Residential Services exists to support students in finding their fit and sense of belonging. The staff in the department cultivate an environment that facilitates the “adulting” process, inclusive of personal and professional development.

Housing & Residential Services goals and outcomes:

  • Student staff will learn to engage in dialogue on diversity and inclusion
  • Facilitate an academic success environment within the residence halls
  • Support a Residential Learning Community program to facilitate a co-curricular experience
  • Promote occupancy and retention in the residential population through strategic communication and high-touch services
  • Assess the impact of the on-campus living experience

Housing and Residential Services organizational chart

HOUSING AND RESIDENTIAL SERVICES LEADERSHIP

Laura Bayless – Vice President for Student Affairs

Laura A. Bayless joined Fitchburg State University in 2017. Bayless is passionate about the growth and development of both students and employees, creating environments in which all contribute to the community we create, and making a difference in the world. She previously served as the chief student affairs officer at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Caldwell University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and as Dean of Students at Longwood University in Virginia. She started her career in residential life. Since joining Fitchburg State, Bayless has contributed to significant institutional- and division-level diversity and racial justice progress, developed a co-curricular assessment process that contributes directly to University priorities, enhanced emergency response and planning, and leveraged cross-divisional partnerships to create a vibrant student experience.

Bayless actively contributes to the field through engagement in professional associations. She has served on the Governing Board of ACPA: College Student Educators International, as well as the board of Massachusetts NASPA. She has been honored with the NASPA Region I Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a Chief Student Affairs Officer, named as a Diamond Honoree by the ACPA Foundation, received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the Higher Education Program at Virginia Tech, and received the Award for Excellent Practice-Senior Level from ACPA’s Commission for Administrative Leadership, in addition to being recognized by students on several campuses. She is a frequent presenter, consultant, and podcaster.

Student Affairs organizational chart

INSTITUTIONAL OVERVIEW

Fitchburg State University, located in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, is a public institution dedicated to integrating high-quality professional programs with strong liberal arts and sciences studies. Founded in 1894, the University now has more than 30 undergraduate programs, 22 master’s degree programs, and approximately 6,800 students. Fitchburg State offers undergraduate and graduate programs emphasizing career-orientated learning that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts, as well as selected majors in the traditional arts and sciences. The University features small class sizes, hands-on professional education, and an accessible faculty dedicated to teaching. A compact campus provides the added bonus of a secure community where social and cultural activities abound, and students assume a wide range of leadership roles in the community, student government, and social and artistic affairs. Fitchburg State is ranked by U.S. News & World Report in Best Colleges 2022-2023 for Top Public Schools (Regional Universities North and Public), Social Mobility (Regional Universities North), Best Value, and Best Undergraduate Nursing.

Mission, vision, and core values

Strategic Plan

THE STUDENT BODY

Total enrollment: 6,815

Undergraduate: 3,165

Graduate: 3,650

Full-time faculty: 191

Day student-faculty ratio: 13:1

Residence Halls/Apartments: four residence halls and three apartment communities (one residence hall is currently under consideration for permanent repurposing, so these numbers may change)

Fast Facts

DIVERSITY STATEMENT

Fitchburg State University is committed to a policy of non-discrimination, equal opportunity, diversity, and affirmative action. The University is dedicated to providing educational, working, and living environments that value the diverse backgrounds of all people.

In fostering a community-wide culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), Fitchburg State University provides a number of resources concerning this commitment, as well as other ways that the community is encouraged to build this culture. To learn more, please visit the Fitchburg DEI website.

INSTITUTIONAL LEADERSHIP

Richard S. Lapidus – President

Dr. Richard S. Lapidus, a recognized leader in higher education, took office as the 11th President of Fitchburg State University in July 2015. A product of public education, he has long advocated for increased access and affordability for higher education. Since becoming President, he has been guiding the University by advancing teaching and learning excellence, fostering diversity and inclusiveness, and engaging the campus community as a steward of place within the city and region.

Prior to his arrival at Fitchburg State, Lapidus served as the Dean of the College of Business Administration at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. During his time there, Lapidus implemented a new strategic plan and guided the institution successfully through two Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business reaccreditation processes, a distinction earned by less than 5 percent of business schools worldwide. He provided direction and oversight in constructing a LEED Silver-certified, $42 million College of Business complex and raised over $24 million in support of a wide range of college initiatives. Under President Lapidus’s leadership, Fitchburg State University has recently been awarded continued accreditation by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

President’s Cabinet organizational chart

Benefits Overview

For a detailed overview of benefits offered at Fitchburg State University, click here.

Application & Nomination

Review of applications will begin Friday, February 3, 2023, and continue until the position is filled. The salary range for this position is $100,000-$115,000. Salary is commensurate with experience and education. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to J. Scott Derrick at jsd@spelmanjohnson.com or Julie A. Leos at jal@spelmanjohnson.com. Applicants needing reasonable accommodations to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.

Visit the Fitchburg State website at www.fitchburgstate.edu.

Fitchburg State University is committed to a policy of non-discrimination, equal opportunity, diversity, affirmative action, and a campus free from all forms of sexually harassing and violent behavior. The University is dedicated to providing an educational, working, and living environment for students, employees, and other members of the campus community.

 

The successful candidate must be fully vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19 or have a documented and approved exemption.