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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

New RLCs come to campus

Tela Ebersole

In an unusual midyear change of staff, Grinnell has hired two new RLCs to replace Dan Hirsch and Latoya Johnson, who are departing. Thomas Arce will take over Hirsch’s duties as the bEAST RLC and Ashley Phipps will replace Johnson in Smounker.

Director of Residence Life & Orientation Andrea Conner is sad to see Hirsch and Johnson leave, but she is also excited about their replacements.

Phipps recently received her master of education degree in student affairs from Iowa State University (ISU). She also attended ISU as an undergraduate and received her bachelor’s degree in integrated studio arts.

“My focus there was photography and fiber arts, so I did a lot of weaving and embroidery,” Phipps said.

Phipps first became interested in student affairs in high school when a family friend got a job as a “house mom,” but did not seriously consider pursuing it until her senior year of college. Becoming a Community Advisor at Iowa State is what shifted her away from art and towards student affairs.

Tela Ebersole
Tela Ebersole

“It was almost halfway through my senior year,” Phipps said. “I was a [community advisor] … and I realized I was spending more time on my floor with my students and doing more things for my role there than I was working on my artwork.”

Arce was an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, where he received his bachelor of arts in political science. As an undergraduate, Arce served as a Resident Assistant (RA) and subsequently decided to pursue a path in student affairs. He is currently enrolled at ISU, where he is expected to receive his master of education in higher education in May.

Arce does not believe that his graduate studies will interfere with being an RLC at Grinnell.

“I just have this last semester to finish up which is just two classes, and so I’ll be working concurrently full-time here and commuting for classes, which are just one day a week,” Arce said.

This makes Arce different than most RLCs. Not only will he be away from campus one day a week; he also at the moment lacks his master’s degree. This, Conner explains, is not an issue.

“A master’s degree is required for the position, and we all think he is great and want him to finish his master’s degree. So certainly the College is willing to make the accommodation,” Conner said. “It’s worth it for the right person.”

Conner added that finding Arce and Phipps midyear in such a short time has been a miracle. She feels they are as good as anybody the College normally picks in the longer summer search process.

“I feel like the luckiest girl in the world because having a midyear departure as a manager in residence life, it is really hard to find good candidates, and I feel so blessed we found two great people who we’re absolutely proud to have on staff,” Conner said.

Arce said he expects what he has learned in graduate school to help him as an RLC. He is excited to start interacting with students at Grinnell.

“From what I have been hearing, [Grinnell] students are challenging, in the sense that they will challenge you back, and I think that is the exciting part,” Arce said. “This is not something I was used to at the public schools I worked at.”

Phipps first experienced Grinnell on a student affairs field trip as a student at ISU.

“We took a field trip here to see a campus that was totally different than our own, so we spent a day here and learned about the self-governance, talked to students, talked to staff and got a tour of campus,” Phipps said.

As a new employee, she hopes to bring a fresh perspective to campus. That being said, she is interested in what she will learn from Grinnell, as well.

“I am excited to learn a new culture,” Phipps said. “I tend to bring a very positive attitude to everything I do, so that’s probably part of it. I try to be uplifting and welcoming to people.”

Arce said he hopes to bring his interest in social justice to Grinnell with him.

While working as the Diversity Liaison Practicum in the Office of Greek Affairs at ISU, Arce was given the opportunity to create programs that embraced diversity among an array of social identities. Grinnell is a campus that is suited to these interests, he said.

“From what I understand, Grinnell is very much in tune with social justice … and so I am hoping I can bring that knowledge and expertise here, so we can further the conversation about that,” Arce said.

Rest assured, Arce and Phipps have a less serious side to themselves as well.

“I have a very contagious giggle,” Arce said. “So when I really get into it, it’s a giggle that lights the room.”

Phipps, meanwhile, is proud of the fact that she is the only RLC on campus with guinea pigs. Clover and Scarlett will be in her room waiting to be played with.

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