On a morning in late July, the Burge Residence Hall lobby was filled with old friends and familiar faces. Fifteen former Burge Hall residence education employees were back on campus for their 30 year reunion.
The group remarked on all the changes that have been made to Burge Hall. In 1988, Burge Market Place and the Clinton Street Market were still a student advising office. Students lived in the residence halls did so on less than $6.31 a day. Many RAs recall sleeping behind the front desk to hear the alarm panel while on duty. Today, RAs use cell phones for on-duty shifts and a convenience store was built in the space where the student advising office once was.
Although much has changed, many things remain the same. Traditions of making door decorations for residents, individual hall associations (e.g. Burge Associated Student House), and the close connection that is formed between members of each RA staff team persist.
The group of alumni toured the newly-renovated market place and updated resident rooms. Throughout the tour, individuals discussed their memories of living on campus, funny incidents, and even their experiences as Iowa parents. Stopping by their former room, several members of the alumni group seized the opportunity to recreate a photo they took in 1990. Included in the tour group were Jolene Lenth, Sherry Marko, and Jaralee Richter.
Shaped by the job
Jolene Lenth (B.A. English Education, 1990), emphasized that her favorite memories are those of the relationships that she formed with the members of her staff and residents. “We learned how to rely on each other when we had to face situations together… However, we had so much fun spending time together, studying, going out, and at staff meetings. It felt like we were a family of friends. This experience of being an RA really did create lifelong friendships for so many of us,” said Lenth.
For Sherry Marko (B.B.A Finance, 1989), the biggest impact of her RA experience was the preparation it gave her for her future. Marko’s entire career has been in human resources and employee benefits. “Making sure people feel welcome and included, know about resources that can help them, and have support and guidance when they experience challenges pretty much summed up my RA responsibilities," Marko said. "Being an RA greatly impacted my life in so many ways including my future...I married my fellow Burge RA, Bill Marko," she said.
As an assistant hall coordinator between 1987 and1990, Jaralee Richter (M.A. Higher Education and Student Affairs) was able to appreciate the aspects of the University of Iowa that set it apart from other institutions. Her favorite memories from her time at Iowa were serving the hall through BASH Student Government, Homecoming parades, attending campus programs, and the lifelong friendships she has sustained since her time living on campus. Richter’s advice to current students is to take advantage of as much as you can. “Attend programs you didn’t plan, go to all campus events, volunteer to lead something you’re passionate about, stretch outside of your comfort zone,” she says.
Connection and community
For Lenth, Marko, and Richter the memories of their time on campus and their friendships with one another are what drive them to return for their reunions. All three women emphasized how much they enjoy walking around campus and reminiscing about their old classes and favorite hangout spots. Through the alumni newsletter, RA newsletter, and events like football games they can stay connected to the thriving University of Iowa community. To current students and residence education staff, Lenth advises, “Value and enjoy the relationships you make during this time of your life, because you will likely be making friends who will be with you for many years to come!”