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Vick strives for sense of community in residence life

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – As a first-generation college student, Tabitha Vick appreciated the support she received to help her navigate her new experience.

Vick hopes to pay that support forward in her role as Monmouth College’s assistant director of residence life and coordinator of first-year communities.

A Galesburg native, Vick studied at Knox College, where she was part of the TRIO Achievement Program, a student support services project. She said advisers there “changed my life with the amount of support that they provided to me as a first-generation college student.”

After graduating in 2013, Vick moved east, earning a master’s degree in college counseling and student affairs at SUNY-Brockport. She worked as a career counseling intern at the Rochester Institute of Technology for the past year.

“Working at a big college with a lot of students, I started seeing students who had so many different needs and cultural backgrounds,” she said. “It’s just exciting to be around people who are so different than you and have different perspectives. Every day is a brand new learning experience.”

The opportunity to be closer to her family drew Vick, her husband, Austin, and their two young children to the area. Vick said she appreciates having that sense of family on Monmouth’s campus, too.

“Monmouth had the family feel that I was really looking for,” said Vick, who supervises the residence life staff in the freshman halls. “A lot of my job is geared toward programming – really trying to get students and the res life staff to collaborate with others on campus and to create programs that support the first-year experience.”

That programming helps foster the “deeper connections” between residence life staff and students that Vick believes a smaller campus community provides.

“It’s all about relationship-building,” she said. “When I’m working with staff, that’s what we talk about – what does it actually look like to have a community? What specific examples can they provide? How do they go about making that happen? I think it’s as small as having an open-door policy, it’s putting a Post-It on someone’s door, it’s making a program so everyone can be part of it. It’s all of those things together.”

It all leads to fulfilling Vick’s bottom line.

“The most important thing to me is that they leave here knowing that they matter, that they’re valuable, and ultimately that people care about them, not just as students, but as people, as well,” she said.