By Shannon Overcash, Kendall Hall residence life coordinator
Nothing could have prepared me for what I was walking into when I was offered the position of residence life coordinator in Kendall Hall. COVID-19 was still relatively new, and I had not been exposed to anyone who had the virus. Before I knew it, I said yes and jumped in with both feet. I’m glad I did. This position has brought with it growth, change and tremendous blessings.
It can get a little chaotic at times, even in the isolation dorm, with check- ins/checkouts, meal delivery and general daily life. But every afternoon, there was a quiet lull in the busyness — the low murmur of students in their rooms updating their families on symptoms and school work, studying or attending classes via Zoom, and resting and recovering from the virus. As a dorm mom to students numbering from one to more than 50, I reveled in the quiet but also smiled, knowing that soon noise and busyness would pick up again.
In Kendall lobby, there is a bulletin board behind the front desk. During my first month in the hall, I mulled over ideas for themes or decorations I could put up but never quite landed on anything specific. Then one day a group of girls who had recently moved in presented me with handwritten notes and drawings they had made for me and hung them up on the bulletin board. Since then, it has been filled with notes and drawings from students who have lived in Kendall. That bulletin board is my favorite thing about the dorm — it reminds me of students who have come and gone, their encouragement to me, and of our COVID-19 family.
My goal for Kendall was and is to foster an environment where students who are sick can move in, get the rest and recovery time they need, and encourage them when they return to the general population on campus. I had never considered taking on a role like this, but sometimes opportunities come out of nowhere when they are least expected. It would be easy to say it was just a coincidence, but I know better than that. I truly believe that God opened the door for me to take this position — I was in the right place at the right time.
Managing Kendall Hall has its ups and downs. There are many times where I feel ill equipped for the position or like I have no idea what I am doing. Any time I feel that way, it isn’t long before someone is offering me a handwritten note or speaking words of encouragement over me. The other RLCs on campus, as well as the Office of Student Life, make me feel very welcome for which I am so grateful.
When I accepted this position, I did not think about the possible drawbacks or the potential impact that COVID-19 would have not only on my life but on the lives of my students as well. The hardest parts have been seeing genuine fear come across someone’s face, watching people shift away from me upon learning what my position is on campus, not being able to go to church due to COVID-19 guidelines, and hearing from my students about how their friends and classmates are nervous around them even though they completed their isolation dates and are no longer contagious. Despite the hard moments there have been positives too, such as the opportunity to minister to students differently than I have in the past, getting to meet some of the most amazing students on this campus and hearing them laugh and joke, seeing them rejoice with each other when someone finishes isolation, and watching friends come to visit and encourage them.
My time in Kendall Hall has been like no other experience I have ever had. It’s funny how blessings come in all shapes and sizes. If you had told me at the beginning of 2020 that I would be taking a job managing a residence hall on campus, and an isolation dorm at that, I would have thought you were crazy. And yet, here I am, one semester down and working on round two. While a unique year, I cannot wait to see what 2021 holds.