March 4, 2021

Admissions Blog: Meet Samantha, Director of Residence Life

Samantha Tymchyn is the Director of Residence Life in Andersen Hall, MSM’s residential tower with views of New York City that’s home to a vibrant community of student musicians.

We spoke with Samantha about her position, what it’s like working with her team of Resident Assistants, and how she’s connecting with students while following health and safety precautions.

20-story Andersen Hall residence tower (left) is connected to the main MSM building, built in 1910

How would you describe your job at MSM?

Samantha: I am the Director of Residence Life here at MSM! I oversee the ins and outs of a student’s experience living on campus, which includes overseeing the health, wellness, & safety of our students, as well as the daily logistics and operations of the residence hall.

Director of Residence Life Samantha Tymchyn helps communicate MSM's COVID-19 safety protocols to students in residence!

What is a typical day for you and your team?

Samantha: There is no typical day for anyone in Residence Life! Though there is a natural ebb and flow through the academic calendar with housing operations. These involve helping students move in, move out, running housing selection and our daily logistics, keeping tabs on students’ needs, summer projects, and many other things.

Most of my daily agenda is dictated by student support and wellness priorities. Each day I make sure that our students are well cared for, that they feel seen and part of a greater community, that their needs are met, that they are meeting our community expectations and that we are meeting theirs. This usually keeps me pretty busy, and it’s a responsibility that I take very seriously.

Slideshow: The Office of Residence Life and Resident Assistants work together to create community through fun events and activities.

There are a lot of great programs in the works for the spring semester: We had Black History Month Trivia, coming up will be learning how to pickle, navigating the NYC floral district, tasting girl scout cookies, sampling neighborhood coffee shops, and much more!

Director of Residence Life

What are some activities you have coming up this semester that people should know about?

Samantha: Our Resident Assistants (RAs) have been incredibly creative and innovative during the pandemic. The main focus of their work is to help residents  have a sense of belonging and community. The RAs have a lot of wonderful programs in the works for this semester! One new thing we added this Spring is that our RA’s will be hosting some programs in the Andersen building lobby. The RAs currently host programs on their assigned floors, and for the whole building. The new lobby programs are specifically designed to engage residents who are passing by, and to give them something new to learn in a short period of time. This past week they celebrated Mardi Gras! They explained to students about the meaning of Mardi Gras and served King Cake inspired pancakes.

What’s in like in Res Life during the pandemic?

Samantha: Residence Life is all about PEOPLE! It’s a little more challenging connecting with students this year because of COVID restrictions, as I hardly see them. There is a lot less movement around campus since students are in their rooms more often than usual, attending online classes. I am as present as I can be physically and digitally. If I have free time in my schedule, you’ll find me in the lobby or the cafeteria, just saying hello and catching up with students passing by. Digitally, it’s important for me to respond as quickly as possible to get students the answers they’re looking for as quickly as they would have if they’d been able to stop by my office, which they can’t this year due to safety restrictions. Answering quickly is my way of letting them know that I’m here for them, working for them, and caring for them, even if they don’t see me as often as they normally would.

My priority each day is to make sure that our students are well cared for, that they feel seen and part of a greater community, that their needs are met, that they are meeting our community expectations and that we are meeting theirs.

Director of Residence Life

Tell us about the Resident Assistant program.

Samantha: Our students at MSM have many more academic obligations than traditional college students. For this reason, the dedication and commitment the RA’s make to the school is truly inspiring. Our RA team is hired in the spring each year and they start their work two weeks before students arrive on campus. In the two weeks of training our goal is to build a team where members feel confident in themselves, about their role and responsibility to the community, and have trust in each other as part of a team. The RA role is complex and multi-dimensional; they are peer mentors, community builders and role models, the go-to people for campus resources, the first people who respond in emergencies, enforcers of community standards, and so much more! In the Spring, the RAs will attend another week of training as we are continuously building upon their skills, giving them development opportunities to learn and grow from, and having honest conversations about how we can work together to improve the quality of on campus living.

What’s the latest news in Res Life?

Samantha: This summer we did a small renovation update to our lounge on the 17th floor and we have just opened it up to the community! The lounge has some new modular furniture that can be arranged in many different ways. It’s a perfect place for students to play a game together or curl up and read a book. The RA’s have a lot of great programs in the works for the spring semester: Black History Month Trivia took place in February, coming up will be learning how to pickle, navigating the NYC floral district, tasting girl scout cookies, sampling neighborhood coffee shops, and so much more! We are also currently recruiting student leaders for next year. As soon as we wrap up the selection of our student leaders for next year we will move on to housing selection and then “move out” will be soon after! We have a busy semester ahead of us!

Anything else you’d like to share?

Samantha: I’m incredibly proud of how well this year has gone! We have had to rethink so much of how we do our work but I am so impressed with my team’s tenacity in making strides to build community and connection through the challenges of the pandemic. We have had to sacrifice our big programs, dial back our strategic planning, and added a lot more responsibility in supporting and upholding COVID-19 measures. We are proud to say that we have been able to successfully navigate COVID-19 while preserving some of the most important elements of campus living.

Residence Life is a team sport, I cannot take credit for anything that I have mentioned without acknowledging our amazing RAs and our Housing Operations Coordinator, Celine Walker who works alongside me and has navigated the challenges of this past year with great determination. We are also beyond grateful for the leadership of our Dean of Students, Dr. Monica Christensen and our colleagues Melanie Dorsey and Crystal Wilson who have always been a great support to us. Our nurse, Nurse Cai, joined us mid-pandemic and has cared for our students so well this year. We also have a fabulous team of graduate assistants who have jumped in to help in countless ways. Last but certainly not least, we work very closely with the Office of Facilities and Campus Safety, our partnership with them is invaluable.