Photo Credit: Jennifer Zucchetti
Creating a community at St. Mike’s
Arib Hassam, Staff Writer
My journey as a residence don at St. Michael’s College began in August 2023, marking the start of an incredibly enriching and challenging chapter in my life. Inspired by my first-year don, Sukh, a figure of immense support and guidance, I was motivated to take on this role. Sukh’s influence on my university experience was profound, demonstrating the positive impact a don can have on a student’s life. With this inspiration, I stepped into the role, eager to be a similar guiding light for new students.
The role of a don at St. Michael’s College is complex and multi-dimensional. As dons, we wear many hats: mentors, role models, mediators, organizers, active listeners, and much more. Our core duty revolves around fostering a welcoming, respectful, and supportive residence environment. This task involves orienting new students to university life, enforcing residence rules, maintaining decorum, and most importantly, creating opportunities for students to interact and build a sense of community. Being an ambassador of the college’s values, we strive to embody characteristics like good character, sound judgment, leadership, and integrity, all while supporting the unique lived experiences of our residents.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a don is the opportunity to witness and contribute to the personal growth of students. Seeing them evolve from unsure first years to confident and well-rounded young adults is a privilege. I have had the honor of mentoring students who were struggling academically or personally, and watching them overcome their challenges and succeed is immensely gratifying. These moments underscore the importance of our role in students’ lives—not just as authority figures, but as mentors and confidants. This aspect of the job, though demanding, is what makes it truly special and impactful.
One of the biggest challenges I face is finding the right balance between my duties as a don and my academic responsibilities. The role is demanding, often leading to burnout and compassion fatigue. The social aspects of the job, while rewarding, can be draining, requiring a delicate balance between being approachable and maintaining authority. Enforcing rules and discipline, in particular, can be a struggle, as it’s crucial to be fair and empathetic while upholding college standards. Despite these challenges, the role is deeply rewarding, filled with countless opportunities for personal growth and meaningful interactions with students.
A standout memory of my time as a don includes a late-night pool session with residents, lasting until 2 AM in the common room. This spontaneous event exemplifies the vibrant and unexpected moments that make this role so unique. It’s through these interactions that strong bonds are formed, and the essence of community living is truly felt. Such experiences are not just about having fun; they are instrumental in building trust and rapport with the residents, making my role as a don more effective and fulfilling.
The impact of a residence don on students’ lives is often subtle but significant. It’s in the small, everyday interactions where we make the most difference—answering questions, offering advice, or just being a listening ear. As much as I am there to guide and support them, the students also have a profound impact on me. This mutual influence creates a dynamic and nurturing environment, essential for the growth and well-being of everyone in the residence.
As I look towards the future, I see my experiences as a residence don at St. Michael’s College as foundational for my career in social work and psychology. The skills and lessons learned in this role are invaluable, shaping me into a more empathetic, resilient, and insightful professional. The journey of being a residence don has been one of continuous learning, personal growth, and meaningful connections—a truly transformative experience.
In summary, serving as a residence don at St. Michael’s College is a journey like no other. It’s a role that challenges you, shapes you, and rewards you in countless ways. The experience goes beyond just managing a residence; it’s about fostering a community, growing as an individual, and making a lasting impact on the lives of students. This journey has been one of the most significant and fulfilling experiences of my college life, and I am grateful for every moment of it.