Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Walk into Parrish, take the elevator to the basement, make two consecutive left turns, and walk into the Office of Student Engagement. This is where the magic of placing of students into dorms happens. Over the summer, Isaiah Thomas worked as the Assistant Director of Residential Communities to place students into their new homes for the school year.
Hailing from the Twin Cities of Minnesota, Thomas graduated from Colorado College and received his Masters at the University of Maryland. Thomas worked in Residence Life at Carleton College for three years and worked abroad with the Semester at Sea program, a study-abroad program that takes students on a journey across the globe. Before coming to Swarthmore, he oversaw the Office of Residential Life at Penn State Berks. He says he came to Swarthmore because he was excited about working for a new office and being able to provide more support and opportunities for Swatties.
The first thing one would notice about Thomas is his enthusiasm for his job. ”I love working with intelligent, kind, socially just college kids who see themselves as change agents in the world,” said Thomas.
The biggest question of Thomas’s job is housing. According to Thomas, housing survey responses (especially those from first-year students) are given sincere attention. “We take everything a first-year student put in their questionnaire seriously,” Thomas said. “We strive for a balance between factors like how clean a student prefers their roommate be, with creating opportunities for students to learn and grow from someone different than them.”
Thomas speaks of his long-term plans with optimism. Besides hoping to start his Doctor of Education next fall, Thomas is enthusiastic about making connections at Swarthmore. “So far, I really enjoy Swarthmore, and I have begun to make genuine relationships with students and other faculty/staff in and out of the Dean’s division,” he said. Thomas’s long term goal is to “ensure that Swarthmore students continue to have a residential experience that helps them succeed academically, learn from others, feel safe and comfortable, and create long-lasting memories.”
When he’s not hard at work, Thomas can be found on the big swing, the Amphitheater, or in his office. “I really love the Office of Student Engagement,” Thomas said. “It is such a great space for students to hang out, connect with all of the OSE staff, and we always have delicious treats to snack on!”
Thomas shared that faculty and staff could be more engaged with the students. “I would love to see larger programs, seminars, or even classes taught in residence halls. We think of the dorms as more than a place to sleep,” he said. Thomas encourages all students to come visit his office in Parrish basement.
Featured image courtesy of www.swarthmore.edu