The lifestyle of leaders

A student’s abrupt transition into the chaos of residence has the ability to shock, frustrate and upset even the most adaptable individual.

But one upper-year Laurier student is supposed to have the comprehensive skill set to help all first-years adapt to new homes in residence – their don.

Dons work around the clock in an attempt to ease first-year concerns, provide guidance, act as a resource and patrol the hallways of Laurier residences.

Of course, there are always those students who will feel that their don left them in search of more guidance.

Although some, like fourth-year Laurier student Victoria Lane, may describe their dons as being “unapproachable and self-involved,” experienced dons Jenn Greene and Zach
Hogan work hard to be the opposite.

Dons have the benefit of free housing in their residences in return for the services they provide to the students on their floor.

But Little House don Hogan and Bricker Residence don Greene believe the benefits they receive do not outweigh the work they put into their jobs and that the rewards they reap tend to be intangible.

“There’s definitely some things that people could portray as the rewards, but the rewards beyond that are the character development that you get out of it for yourself and [for the] people on your floor,” explained Hogan.

“[Others] don’t see the hours and hours that we put in, in terms of programming, bulletin boards, student relationships,” Greene continued.

It is true that many students’ first year experience does not necessarily lead them to explore the depths of their don’s duties. Many are not privy to what dons refer to as a lifestyle instead of a job.

“It is a lifestyle because you’re not just a don when you’re in your residence building, you’re a don when you’re in class, when you’re out on the town, all the time more or less,” said Hogan.

All that weight on a don’s shoulders to be a role model for their students must certainly make a don’s life stressful, and although some feel that their dons were far from perfect, Greene and Hogan maintain that the majority of dons are committed to doing their best for their students.

“The lifestyle demands of you that you are a role model,” insists Greene, who noted that she was interrupted three times in the last half hour by students asking questions.

Hogan agrees with Greene regarding his attempt to be a role model for his students. He says he does so by showing his students that “your number one priority is your academic work.” Hogan added that secondary to his academic work is being a resource to help guide his students to get involved in things that interest them.

Being a constant role model in a job referred to as a lifestyle can become a stressful environment for upper-year students juggling personal lives, academics and donning.

“It can sometimes weigh on you because you feel like you have to fix all the problems but you can’t realistically, that’s not part of your job [description],” said Greene. “Sometimes that can weigh down your emotions and you get that feeling like you have to do everything and fix everything and that can make it kind of emotional.

“Sometimes you change your priorities around and put your students before your sleeping schedule and that’s fine and that’s why we’re all here,” she added.

Hogan agrees that being a don is a tough role to play in the Laurier community, but both he and Greene say that the positive feelings they get from their involvement as dons outweigh any emotional and physical strain they endure.

“It’s such a rewarding experience that anything you put into it is exactly what you will receive out of it,” said Hogan, who has never lived outside of residence, as he has been donning since he was in his second year at Laurier.

Greene happily admits that the relationships she has built while being a don at Laurier “are the ones that are going to last.”

Nonetheless, both of these experienced dons agree that to apply to residence life as a don simply for the free accommodations would be a mistake and such individuals would probably never make it past the interview process.

Hogan said that those who apply usually want to be a don for two reasons.

“A lot of people do it because they either had a very good first year experience or a very bad one and they either want to fix it or continue and kind of give back in a way,” he explained, and perhaps this means that living in residence holds a far more optimistic future for students this year.

And although she admits to the pressures of a life as a role model, Greene stays optimistic, explaining, “Yes, there are some sad emotions and some stressful emotions but there are also really positive ones as well.”

Residence life general don duties

  1. Reside in assigned residence building to serve primarily as a resource to students in your individual community, and to the students in the entire building.

  2. Be registered as a full-time student (3 full courses per term) and maintain a minimum GPA of 5.00.

  3. Attend mandatory training sessions and meetings (including Discover Donning, Don’s Camp, Winter Revival Training, In-Service Training, all staff meetings, and other training
    sessions as determined by the Residence Life Office).

  4. Be committed to being a don as your principal out-of-class activity. Residence Life Area Co-ordinator must approve additional extra-curricular activities.

  5. Maintain position of Residence Life Staff beginning with Don’s Camp in August until conclusion of final exams in April. This includes residing in residence until completion of all final exams in December.

  6. Be on duty throughout the year according to Duty Don schedule, and/or other nights as assigned by the Residence Life Office.

Information taken from residence life don job description, 2009.

Don monetary compensation

Dons receive the following breakdown of funds to supplement their spending in certain areas.

$392.00 per semester, in addition to the cost associated with the value of a single room.

$320.00 for the academic school year to cover the cost of a phone for the school year.