Each semester at Eastern begins with students filing back into the residence halls. They embrace the college life and are first greeted by their resident assistant.
Resident assistants are community facilitators, referral agents and administrators for the campus residence halls during the school year.
However, when the residents turn in their keys, the resident assistants lock up and the final student watches Charleston fade in the rearview mirror, and a different type of community facilitator steps up to the plate to take the reins for the summer.
Each summer the residence halls house more than 10,000 guests from approximately 50 camps during the conference season, which lasts from May 8 to August 13 and this is where the conference assistants step in.
Conference assistants are student representatives of Eastern and work with summer camp participants to help them through their stay.
There are full and half summer conference assistants meaning that some stay for the entire summer while others head home after the busiest time of the season.
“That’s why we want someone with the bleed blue factor,” Matt Boyer, the assistant director of residential life and conference services, said. “This is an outstanding opportunity for our guests to see the passion that this institution has.”
At the start of the summer, both full- and half-summer conference assistants share rooms in Greek Court.
Julia Dubnick, a conference assistant, said at first she hated the idea of living in Greek Court.
“But I actually love it. It’s like we’re living in one giant house so we all just hang out and it’s fun,” she said.
At the end of June, Eastern moves into a more traditional camp style and the remaining conference assitants are spread across campus as they transition into a live-in role within the residence halls.
“They receive a single room and live in the residence hall with our guests to provide that extra security and a familiar face,” Boyer said.
Utilizing their newfound rapport, full-summer conference assistants will accommodate guests and early returning athletes for the remainder of the summer.
For their effort, conference assistants have their room and board covered, receive two meals a day from the dining halls and earn minimum wage.
However, the benefits come with a cost and conference assistants are charged with several tasks during their stay, which includes providing safety and security for summer guests.
Amanda Lewis, a former conference assistant, said every night when camps are on campus, the conference assistants are in the residence halls doing rounds and checking doors all night long.
“It gives a sense of comfort to the parents and coaches,” Lewis said.
Aside from providing a sense of security, conference assistants are also the primary contact for each camp.
They work with camp participants and leaders personally and Dubnick said that is why hospitality is important.
“You have to have good people skills and make them feel at home at Eastern,” she said.
Brandon Winner can be reached at 217-581-2812 or [email protected]