From RA to KSU administrator

Stephanie Park

Betsy Joseph, director of Residence Services, sits in front of an architect’s model of the new Honors College buildings, Stopher and Johnson. Joseph has been with Kent State for only two years but comes with experience from Indiana University of Pennsyl

Credit: Steve Schirra

Residents, fires and pythons – oh my.

It’s all possible in a day’s work for Residence Services Director Betsy Joseph.

From helping with the aftermath of the Allyn Hall fire to working on models for the new Honors College buildings, Joseph has her hands full with a wide variety of residential issues.

“I really enjoy the diversity of what my job entails,” she said.

Joseph’s love of working with housing began more than 25 years ago when she started as a resident advisor at Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tenn.

“I was financing my own education,” Joseph said, explaining why she got involved. “It was my first time away from home.”

Along with becoming an RA, she also got involved with her university’s hall council. Laughing, Joseph said her hall director encouraged her to join and meet new people because she rarely left the hall.

It was a great way for Joseph to help people, too.

“There are various students that, when I look back over my career, I believe my involvement with them helped,” she said.

T.J. Logan, assistant director of Residence Services, said Joseph’s experience helping students has made an impact in their lives and on the university.

Joseph remembered a student she helped during her time as associate director of Housing and Residence Life at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She said she worked with judicial affairs to dismiss a young man from the university because of substance abuse.

“He was very, very upset he was no longer able to be enrolled,” she recalled. “But he had been able, over the five-year period he was gone, to clean up his alcohol and drug abuse. He (later) stopped in to say, ‘Thank you – I needed that wake up call.'”

While issues concerning drugs and alcohol can be difficult, Joseph said the hardest thing to deal with is student death.

“It’s a terrible thing to do – sitting with a family and having to pack up their child’s stuff,” she said. “Death is never easy. With a young person, it’s more difficult.”

She said reaching out to the roommate and other people on the floor is hard, too.

“It’s hard on the staff,” Joseph said. “They are the closest to these students. They are the people they lived with and saw daily.”

Although she often finds herself in serious situations, Joseph said she has found herself dealing with some unusual situations, too.

“A student thought it was OK to bring his pet python to school,” she said, shaking her head. “Having (snakes) in a residence hall is not the most appropriate location for them.”

Snakes have not been a problem yet at Kent State, Joseph said, knocking on wood.

Along with enjoying the diverse situations she encounters with her job, Joseph said she also enjoys working with the diverse staff at the university.

“The staff and this department are amazing,” she said.

The dedicated way her staff responded to the fire in Allyn Hall awed her, Joseph said. Despite the holiday, staff members stayed and made supply bags with linens and toiletries for displaced residents.

“They just worked,” she said. “There was no question asked.”

Working hands-on with resident advisers and hall directors is another benefit, she said.

“I can still interact with students,” she said. “Sometimes when you get to different levels of administration you don’t.”

Joseph doesn’t just work with students, either. She works with several offices on campus, including Campus Environment and Operations. Joseph recently met with architects from this office to discuss plans for the new Honors College and Stopher and Johnson Halls.

“Betsy is hands-on with many projects around the department,” Logan said. “She likes to know what is going on in all areas. Betsy brings a new perspective to the department, encouraging us to go places and do things that we haven’t in the past.”

Despite the commitment required and the long hours, Joseph said she can’t see herself doing anything else.

Except for maybe one thing – winning the lottery.

“I can’t think of not working in a housing program,” she said. “But I will play the lottery – especially when the Mega Millions is up.”

Contact room and board reporter Stephanie Park at [email protected].