Two new ARDs hired mid-semester amid ResLife system transition

Donisha Thaxton is one of two Area Residence Directors hired by ResLife this semester. Nora Nord / The Tufts Daily

The Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) finished its process of hiring two more Area Residence Directors (ARDs) earlier this month.

According to Director of ResLife Yolanda King, the two new ARDs are Donisha Thaxton for Area Four (Lewis Hall and South Hall) and Mohamed Barakat for Area Two (Carmichael Hall, Wilson House, Wren Hall, Carpenter House, Metcalf Hall and Richardson House). They join Tanya Mascary and Julie Kennedy, the existing ARDs for Areas One and Three (Bush Hall, Hill Hall, Hodgdon Hall, Haskell Hall and Tilton Hall), respectively.

Prior to the new hires, current ResLife staff — including four new senior resident assistants (RAs) — fulfilled the responsibilities of the missing ARDsKing said. The new senior resident assistant (RA) positions, which serve as leadership liaison positions for RAs, are still in place to bridge the gap between the ARDs and the RAs.

“Each area has a senior RA who has a certain level of [higher] responsibility,” King said.

The hiring of Thaxton and Barakat, who will also pursue graduate studies at the university, follows staffing issues that ResLife has faced amid the transition from its former system, in which graduate student residential directors (RDs) were assigned to head individual dorms, to the ARD system, in which ARDs are assigned to a designated area on campus, including multiple dorms.

According to the ResLife website, ARDs are full-time professional staff members who are responsible for the “planning and delivery of a Living and Learning Community for the area they supervise.” Specifically, ARDs are responsible for supervising student staff and student behavior, organizing area-wide programming, dealing with housing operations such as room assignments and changes, serving as members of the on-call rotation and developing an area-wide sense of community and pride.

King explained that responsibilities of the ARD position at Tufts include working with first-generation students, student leadership, student service and other related issues.

King said that both of the new ARDs have residential life experience from other institutions, although their areas of focus have differed slightly. According to the ResLife website, ARDs are required to have two to three years of post-baccalaureate experience, and preferably have previous experience working in Residential Life and Housing.

Barakat, who could not be reached for comment, previously worked for two years as the RD at Fordham University, where he supervised RAs, desk assistants and tutors, according to his LinkedIn profile. While at Fordham, Barakat was also the co-chair of the department assessment committee and chair of the RD recruitment and selection committee.

Thaxton said she has had two years of experience at Bowdoin College as an RA for first-years and worked with Upward Bound (UB)According to the U.S. Department of Education website, UB is a federally funded college preparatory program for first-generation and low-income high school students. 

“Through Bowdoin Reslife and UB, I gained many skills that I use everyday in my role as an ARD including leading a staff, planning and executing meaningful programming, creating safe and respectful environments, mediating conflicts, managing crises, and the list goes on and on,” Thaxton told the Daily in an email.

She added that, as a part of ResLife, each day comes with new challenges, all of which must be met with patience and flexibility. Thaxton said she believes the newly restructured ARD system at Tufts is more efficient than the past RD system.

“Because our time is not split between work and graduate studies, we can take that extra time to better serve our areas,” Thaxton said. “We can get to know our RAs better and meet more residents. We can be much more effective at solving problems quickly, recognizing patterns and trends, creating community and connecting students to resources.”

Thaxton aspires to maintain a high level of commitment this year and welcomes any future challenges with open arms.

“My hope is to be an approachable and effective ARD,” she said. “To me, that means being present in the halls, being in constant communication with RAs, the other ARDs and Central [ResLife] Staff, and finding ways to help residents feel supported enough to be themselves without shame.”