Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Your Digital Life as a New Resident Director

In this post I will be introducing a new research project, exploring how Residence Life approaches social media, including training new staff such as Resident Directors and Resident Assistants. To begin this research I started with an informal poll that turned into something much more substantial that I couldn’t wait till a journal article, conference presentation or speaking engagement to share. Make sure to check out those results in a video I present at the end of this post.


The large majority of student affairs educators begin their careers in Residence Life, including me over ten years ago. In no other time in my professional career did I receive as much training as I did as a Resident Director (RD). But ten years ago YouTube had just been created and Facebook was only beginning to infiltrate college campuses across the country. If we talked about any kind of technology in my RD training, it was about how students were illegally using Napster via their room ethernet connection.

2015 is much different, not just for what is means to be a resident director but for all educators in addressing and claiming our digital presence.

But somehow I don’t see these differences being called out, rather most young professionals and even senior level leaders are figuring out transitions into public professional positions through trial and error. For a new resident director, especially ones fresh out of graduate school or serving as a graduate assistants, these new professionals are only a few page scrolls away from how they posted in college or even high school. As an RD they are placed in roles of emergency responder, counselor, staff supervisor and building manager.

Whether an RD likes it or not – they have to start using social media a little differently.

But because there isn’t a lot of supportive and positive conversations going on, I see many new professionals taking extreme measures. For example, making all posts private, creating two accounts on everything, not accepting friend/follow requests from students or colleagues, and so on. I have even heard student leaders adopting such measures. Social media stops being social.

shutterstock_93193222In this post I am presenting a balanced argument, with the help of 73 other Residence Life professionals who recently completed an informal poll. I created this survey to give me perspective on how housing professionals feel about social media as it relates to students, colleagues and the needs of the resident director position.

I asked: what would you want a new resident director to consider about their digital life. 

The results however apply beyond Residence Life and new professionals. The findings offer a refreshing and honest perspective about social media tools as a higher education professional.
It gives our profession permission to join the digital dialogue as authentic and whole human beings – not just the professional side or vice versa.
You will be pleasantly surprised at the responses, where I found the following major themes:

  • A “privacy” wake up call
  • Time to get professional
  • It’s ok to interact with students
  • Making digital decisions
  • Focus on building community online

Instead of writing out these findings, I have created a video that captures the visual results. I hope this video will especially be helpful to Residence Life departments going though summer training. If you don’t have time to create a session in your summer/fall training schedule – let this at least be shared amongst your team as a start.

Let the results open up a line of dialogue about what our place is as professionals in the digital space.

Please join me on Twitter @josieahlquist and the online conversation around all things social media in student affairs using the hashtag #SAsome.

Don’t have time to watch the video, review the slides here:

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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