Although she only recently moved onto campus, the new Area Coordinator (AC) for Ytterboe and Hoyme Halls, Shawna Newman, has already been busy getting to know the community and the students.
As a recent college graduate from Jacksonville University in Florida, Shawna has had a lot of experience already in Residence Life. She was a Residence Advisor (RA) for two and a half years and spent her last semester at Jacksonville University as a desk worker for the Residence Life office. Shawna joked that Residence Life was the only job she actually liked, turning down careers in journalism and law. Even with her love of English, her true passion is Residence Life.
“I loved getting to work with students,” Newman said. “I loved helping guide them. And I had such a great college experience and I wanted to help them have that. When I got towards the end, I got to a point where I was like, ‘Wow, I could really do this and continue on this path.’”
For now, Newman plans on getting to know the students and the campus of St. Olaf so she can understand what is important to students here.
“I definitely understand that my role right now is not to be implementing what I want,” Newman said. “Essentially, what I’m intending to do is really just get a feel for the communities of the two buildings that I’m overseeing, and really try to address the needs that the students at St. Olaf are facing. Once I have a better understanding of that, I can really cater to whatever it is that they actually need and then I can start implementing and creating my own plans that will help with that.”
Newman’s goal is to do whatever is best for students here, and she is pleasantly surprised that St. Olaf also wants this. “Students should be number one. Students are number one at St. Olaf and they make that very apparent. That’s something I’m very happy about.”
Newman only graduated from Jacksonville University in December, but is excited to remain in a college setting. While some people may see it as a disadvantage to be so young, Newman sees being close in age as perfect for this position.
“I also think my age helps me be a little more approachable,” Newman said. “I was just very recently a college student, so I’m going to be the number one advocate for all the things that students are wanting right now. Because if there are issues happening nationwide across campuses, I was right there. I was in it. I understand what that feels like and what they’re going through. I think having that connection is definitely a pretty big asset to me.”
Growing up in a small Nebraska town, Newman was looking for a place where “everybody knows everybody and … community strength.” However, Newman is also happy that St. Olaf is not far from the Twin Cities, since she “needs her city fix” after living in Jacksonville. Newman said “finding St. Olaf was a happy accident.”
Besides her experience with Residence Life, she also has had some notable life experiences. Shawna was an English major at Jacksonville University and was published in her school’s literary magazine. She used to box and was a boxing instructor. Although she finds dogs cute, she is ultimately a cat person. And, like many of us, she is a “pizza addict.”