John Rodriguez, former Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS) assistant director for upper division, officially left Occidental Friday, Nov. 11. He was offered a position as the coordinator of student success at California State University, Northridge.
REHS staff will redistribute Rodriguez’s former responsibilities to current staffers until the position is filled. Another existing vacancy in REHS is the assistant director for first-year experience, for which there is no current search process.
In his year and a half at Occidental, Rodriguez said he gained great satisfaction from seeing living communities in Norris Hall design programs in accordance with their proposed themes. He referred specifically to the Eagle Rock Educational Outreach quad, which has partnered with a local charter school, PUC Early College Academy for Leaders & Scholars, and provided mentorship and tutoring to students throughout this past semester.
“Their work is inspiring and will do great things for those students,” Rodriguez said. “It will also increase relationships between Oxy and the primary and secondary schools in Eagle Rock — something that can most likely go unrecognized by some.”
Regarding his new job, Rodriguez is most excited about directly working to enhance student success by conducting institutional research, creating strategies for raising graduation and retention rates and providing student aid. He acknowledged that his time at Occidental has been challenging in many ways, specifically that predominantly white institutions such as Occidental typically have administrative structures that do not always adapt to meet the needs of the student population. Overall, Rodriguez is grateful for the hard work he observed in all areas of the school, and he appreciated the opportunity to work with colleagues who shared his student-centric values.
Although Rodriguez’s position is now vacant, another REHS position has recently been filled. Monique Hankerson is the school’s new associate director for housing services. After a year of teaching K–12, she became the judicial affairs coordinator and assistant director of residence life at the Art Institute of Philadelphia for four years. Before coming to Occidental, she worked as the director of housing at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
“Working in Student Affairs is a very amazing and rewarding experience,” Hankerson said. “It is full of endless moments of building student connections and providing very deliberate living-learning experiences.”
Hankerson is proud to advocate for students, and she is still in touch with many students from previous schools where she has worked. In the past two weeks, Hankerson’s hiring and Rodriguez’s departure occurred almost simultaneously — existing REHS Director Chad Myers, who has worked here for seven years, provided some context for the high staff turnover.
“Our associate director positions were recently filled, but the people that were in those roles previously were here for six and nine years,” Myers said. “It is fairly common in our field for entry level positions, such as the assistant director position, to have a two- to three-year turnover rate.”
Both Rodriguez and Thomas Wesley, assistant director for student conduct and housing services, attributed the turnover rate to the large size of the department — Occidental’s three-year requirement to live on campus necessitates a large staff. In order to manage the many students on campus, there are 51 resident advisors, seven graduate hall coordinators and six master’s level staff members. Almost all of these positions, excepting primarily the director and associate director, serve as temporary positions for typically just a few years, in order to provide the experience needed to pursue more specialized and elevated positions.
Despite the change in staff, all four staff members emphasized that REHS exists at Occidental to support the students, and they all expressed a strong interest in making the school a better place during their time here. Each individual encouraged students with ideas or grievances to contact REHS and share their concerns.
“If students have projects that they’d like to see in the halls, they can contact me directly and I’m happy to see what is possible,” Wesley said. “There’s never any harm in asking.”