Meramec welcomes new Campus Life Director

Posted on 21 October 2014 by admin

Caroline O’Laughlin joins the team in the Campus Life Department upon Steve Brady’s retirement

Carolyn O’Laughlin takes over as Campus Life Director after Steve Brady’s retirement. With experience in student affairs, O’Laughlin said she is excited to help in student leadership. PHOTO | BRITTNEY FARROW

Carolyn O’Laughlin takes over as Campus Life Director after Steve Brady’s retirement. With experience in student affairs, O’Laughlin said she is excited to help in student leadership. PHOTO | BRITTNEY FARROW

Staff Writer

Growing up in St. Louis, new Campus Life Director Carolyn O’Laughlin is no stranger to Midwestern hospitality, and said she was pleasantly surprised by the community presence at St. Louis Community College – Meramec.

Before starting her position at the beginning of October, O’Laughlin and her family moved from New York where they had been living for many years. While there, she gained experience working in the Residence Life department of schools such as the Manhattan School of Music, Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence, a liberal arts college.

“My family and I were thinking about returning to St. Louis, and we looked around and this position became available,” O’Laughlin said. “I’m really excited to be here. I liked working with student leadership and working with students and thinking about community life on campus. I’ve been doing that from a Residence Life standpoint and this is different, but it’s really exciting for me.”

As an undergraduate, O’Laughlin earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Women’s Studies from Marquette University. Later she received her Master’s from Michigan State University where she studied Student Affairs Administration. Up until September, she acted as the Director of Residence Life at Sarah Lawrence, where her responsibilities included overseeing the housing of more than 1,000 students.

While she said she believes that many of her skills will carry over to Meramec, O’Laughlin said she understands that the lack of a residence hall makes commuter campuses very different.

“One of the things I have to adjust to, because it is a commuter campus, is that we don’t have a captive audience 24/7. So we have to plan events when people are here, and we have to make them worthwhile so that people come back,” O’Laughlin said.

With the time she has had at Meramec so far, O’Laughlin said she has been taking time to make contacts, meet new people and learn about the institutional structure. She said she attends a lot of meetings and is still getting used to the paperwork, but is satisfied with the community presence already established on campus.

“[On campus] I haven’t found the isolation that comes with students hanging out casually,” O’Laughlin said. “People here seem to be friendly, I’ve gotten help from faculty and students. People keep saying how much they like working here. People seem proud to be here. I’m encouraged by that.”

O’Laughlin said out of the many resources available, she believes students should not discount the importance of clubs. She said she believes that the amount of clubs available to students at Meramec is a testament of how diverse student interests are on campus.

She also feels club sponsors play an important role, as they connect students with mentors who have experience in several different occupational fields.

O’Laughlin said the students involved in clubs play an important role in shaping the campus community.

“To have a student community, it’s got to be student-based,” O’Laughlin said.

Aside from setting community standards, O’Laughlin said she firmly believes the Campus Life Department can help provide students with valuable life lessons they can carry on into a real-life setting.

While she said her job demands creating an active environment, she said she understands Campus Life is only a small portion of a student’s experience, and instead wants them to learn the responsibilities involved with being part of a vibrant campus so they can develop critical skills that will help them once they leave college.

“This is the place to practice putting together events. The stakes here [on campus] are not so high, so it’s a good place for students to practice,” O’Laughlin said. “There are students here who are going to go on and do great things. There are students here who are already doing great things.”

As for her own responsibilities, O’Laughlin said it all comes down to finding out what works and what does not. She said she wants to learn what Meramec does not do well and what does so those strengths can be expanded upon.

From what she has seen so far though, O’Laughlin said she does not believe a big change needs to occur.

“[What’s] happening here isn’t broken. It’s not as if I have to come in and dust things off and throw them out the window,” O’Laughlin said. “I want to learn about what’s [already taking place], so that we can grow it. It’s not about dismissing it.”

O’Laughlin does not want to knock tradition. Instead she said wants to encourage thinking out of the box and developing leadership on campus.

“I’m bringing students to a student government conference next month,” O’Laughlin said. “One thing that is on the forefront of my mind is student leadership. There’s [a lot] happening [at Meramec]. I’m excited to see where we go next.


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