Housing and Residence Life says goodbye to the Community Mentor position


Contributed from: Housing and Residence Life

The Community Mentor position that focused on creating campus events and programs will no longer be continued after this academic school year. The decision comes from a lack of students applying for crucial roles like Resident Assistants and Assistant Hall Directors.

Reanne Weil, News Editor

After being created as a key part of the West Campus Learning Communities, the Housing and Residence Life at Winona State University has decided to remove the Community Mentor (CM) employee position.

At West Campus, there were seven houses that had themed communities. Joining a community was a one-credit class (similar to orientation) that students could take on a certain topic, some of which included Health and Wellness, Leadership and Outdoor Adventure. The CM would act as a teaching assistant (TA) for the class, assisting a main instructor in keeping track of students and attending/leading group events.

The Learning Communities ended their reign in 2020 and West Campus closed shortly after, thus melting the CM job into something different for Main Campus.

“We were rethinking the job and decided to focus on programming,” Sarah Olcott, Director of Housing and Residence Life, said. “A lot of the CMs programming is organizing a bowling night, we’re doing swing dancing in February, we did the spring formal last year and the CMs biggest program that campus would remember was the Haunted House.”

Hannah Dunlavy, a third-year student at Winona State, commented highly on her CM experience from her first year.

“The CM I had my first year here always tried to provide us with opportunities of things to do on campus,” Dunlavy said. “I came in with COVID, so it was extremely hard to find activities, but both my CM and RA made the transition easy.”

With the rise of Winona State clubs such as The Warrior Entertainment Network, more and more student activities and events were created, and Housing and Residence Life was able to take a step back.

“There was a time when Housing felt like we needed to do larger scale programming, but with Kryzsko After Darks and other events, there’s not as much of a need anymore,” Olcott said. “With the CM funds, I told the Hall Directors that maybe we can invest a little more in Hall programming and RA programming because RAs really don’t have that big of a budget.”

Olcott further explained that each residence hall has a specific number of RAs and exactly two CMs, but this year, there were many vacancies.

Currently, there are 7 Community Mentors on staff that live throughout the residence halls. According to Housing Director Sarah Olcott, the department is stepping away from the larger programs for next year and focusing on RA/Hall programming. (Brielle McLearen)

“We are in desperate need of staff,” Olcott said. “We don’t have a full staff of RAs or CMs. We’re struggling to find enough RAs, and that’s our focus now.”

Dunlavy recalled on the difficulties of advertising residence hall positions and how she only really knew of the RA for her floor.

“Honestly I didn’t even know of my CM until later in the year because he wasn’t on my floor,” Dunlavy said. “It doesn’t surprise me that it’s hard to promote awareness of the position.”

Although the position is ending, Olcott touched on the hard and dedicated work her employees did for Winona State.

“My CMs are fantastic,” Olcott said. “I told them that this decision was not because of them or something CMs did. It might come into light that we need a programming person again after we try this for a few years. We can always re-envision what our residents need.”