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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Q&A with departing Assistant Director of Residence Life Dan Hirsch

Dan Hirsch, ‘Dan the man’ or ‘Dan the super-senior’ are some of the ways Grinnellians refer to him. But to most, he is the bEAST Residence Life Coordinator (RLC) and Assistant Director of Residence Life. However, his involvement at the College doesn’t end there. Hirsch is also involved with Real Men, Student Government Association (SGA), Student Publications and Radio Committee (SPARC) and many other projects here at Grinnell. He’s a songwriter, skateboarder and generally just a great asset to the Grinnell community. However, after nine semesters here, Hirsch will be parting ways with Grinnell to take a position at Colby College. Hirsch sat down with the S&B’s Danielle Williams to share some info about his life before coming to Grinnell, as well as his overall experience at the College.

Hirsch - Eve Lyons-Berg

What did you major in?
Philosophy—which has nothing to do with what I’m doing right now. I was a Philosophy major at Carleton, a small liberal arts school like Grinnell and two weeks from graduation I still had no idea what I was doing, so I applied to AmeriCorps on a whim. I ended up getting a job and went to San Jose, Ca. for two years.
While I was there I met people who were former [Teach for America] volunteers who are now superintendents of their own school districts. And they had also considered higher education at one point, so that was also how I figured out that I’d want to do something like this. And so because of that I went to the University of Southern California for my Master’s that got me to that conference where I randomly met [current Grinnell Vice President for Student Affairs] Houston [Dougharty]. So none of it was on purpose, it was just happy accidents all over the place.

How did you end up in Grinnell?
My dad’s actually a class of ’75 alum, so Grinnell has always been on my radar. I just happened to randomly meet Houston Dougharty at a conference while I was job searching and he convinced me to interview for the position and the rest is history.

What has your experience been like at Grinnell?
The RLC job at Grinnell is different from any other RLC job in the world in ways that I really appreciate. We don’t do the judicial work—making people write us essays when they get too drunk, we don’t do any of that crap, which a lot of other people have to. It’s been really, really fun being engaged: SGA, student staff, Bob’s … all the stuff I do, and I have a lot of opportunity to do that here.

Why are you leaving Grinnell and in the middle of the school year?
I kind of knew I’d be leaving Grinnell after this year—most people in higher [education] and student affairs search for jobs in March … I was going to search in March, find a new job and start [in the] fall somewhere else, but a friend of mine called me and said this job opening was there and he’s good friends with the guy who’s going to be my supervisor, so he connected us and it’s such a great job.
It’s the Associate Director of Campus Life at Colby College in Maine. The job is great; I get to work with residence life, leadership development, outdoor education and orientation. I’m excited about it … it’s just a semester sooner than I thought it was going to be, but it was a great opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up.

Do you plan on coming back to visit?
Possibly. My wife is staying through the end of March because she works over in Admissions … I don’t know what my timeline is going to look like out there, but if I can, I’d like to come back. I might be back just to help move her out to me, I’m not really sure yet.

What do you think you’ll miss the most?
The environment of self-gov, the people specifically. I’ve had the amazing fortune of working with great students over the years, in Real Men, SAs, [and with] Andrea Conner [Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life and Orientation], who is an amazing supervisor and pretty much the greatest person on campus. So there are a lot of people I’m going to miss, for sure. I think that [what I’ll miss] more than any one thing is probably just the relationships I’ve built over the past four and a half years.
I’m going to continue to wear my GC Pride bracelet wherever I go, so even at Colby I’ll be wearing the GC Pride. And honestly, if I hadn’t come to Grinnell I don’t know that I’d still be working in this field, so I owe a lot to Grinnell

What have your greatest struggles been as an RLC?
There are a lot of ideas that I have that never come together just because I have too many of them and sort of a product of working at Grinnell is that you can do things like the world record Frisbee toss, and you can make a ball pit if you want to.
So the fact that all those are possible makes all of my crazy ideas a realitym, so it’s really hard to focus and put a lot of energy into just one thing … so that’s been a struggle in a positive way.
In the last year and a half I haven’t paid as much attention to East Campus as I wanted to. Just because I’ve been doing so many other things and I have other roles that take me outside being an RLC. So those have been my struggles—the competing priorities for time.

And greatest triumphs?
I’d just say relationships … that’s why I like this job because most of my job is getting to know people and trying to be a presence and trying to help people figure things out and just doing what I can to help people. Last year, the class of ’13 gave me an honorary class membership and that was really validating that all of the work I do made a difference to somebody—that meant a lot.

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