Campus Life Coordinator Adriana Diaz (‘12) is stepping down from her position after three years of serving the New College Community. In March, Diaz will begin working as a child welfare case manager under Lutheran Services Florida (LSF), a community-based care agency spanning across Florida that also works alongside the Safe Children Coalition, Inc. (SCC) in Bradenton.
As a student, Diaz studied sociology and was a Residential Advisor (RA) for two years. Once her thesis and baccalaureate were behind her, she needed to find the next big project while she decided what life after college would look like for her. The opportunity presented itself in March 2017, when the position for Residence Hall Director (RHD) opened after the previous director left to pursue graduate school. Diaz’s background experience with resident life and student affairs made her perfect for the job and she was hired alongside alum Kaylie Stokes (‘12), who is now the Assistant Director of Student Success Programs.
“It was a really good opportunity for me, especially because I kind of already knew a lot of how the role was supposed to function from being an RA and from working so closely with my supervisor in the past,” Diaz said. “I also felt like I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do straight out of college, so this was a really good opportunity that afforded me professional development while also earning good income.”
After one year, Diaz, Stokes and Sean Brueggemann (‘14)—who had recently joined them—took to revamping the RA model. With the aid of the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC), they trained RAs on various safety protocol, mental health awareness and handling other serious situations. More than anything, Diaz feels that she transformed the position by putting RAs first.
“I would say that’s been one of the biggest changes that we brought to the RA model and the function of our job — [to be] more closely aligned with supporting the RAs as students,” Diaz said.
This student-focused approach continued to aid Diaz as she transitioned into the Campus Life Coordinator position last spring. She became more involved with the Living Learning Communities (LLCs) on campus, but a further evolution of the job’s responsibilities was well under way. Within her first semester as Campus Life Coordinator, Diaz designed the current move-out process by streamlining the same software students use to schedule appointments with her.
More than anything, Diaz says that her job is about placing her focus and dedication on New College students and RAs.
“My primary job function, as I see it, is supervising the RA staff and providing support to them,” Diaz said. “Being on call, helping them with their programming efforts and doing all of the behind-the-scenes things that help them function.”
This drive to support others follows Diaz outside of New College as well. In Nov. 2019, she began volunteering at the 12th Judicial Circuit Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), a program in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties which trains volunteers to advocate on behalf of abused or neglected children. With GAL, Diaz met children like these firsthand and was trained to represent their best interests in a court of law. She has participated in one case since she started with GAL and has since known that social work, and particularly child welfare, would be the next step in her career path.
Working in student affairs and higher education provided Diaz the time to form a plan for herself, and the necessary experience with individuals that a social worker needs, but it was never intended to be long-lasting.
“Even though I love the people that I’m working with here, student affairs isn’t my preferred career track,” Diaz said. “I wasn’t intending to stay in higher education long term and move up in this system.”
Even so, Diaz is confident that her time at New College has prepared her well to take on this new line of work.
“I was very apprehensive at first, like, ‘Is social work going to be too difficult, or such heart-heavy work? Can I handle it?’” Diaz said. “But I really think that a lot of what I’ve done here at New College has actually prepared me for that, to develop better internal boundaries, even, and how I view myself in relation to my work.”
As Diaz prepares to leave, plans are currently underway to find the next Campus Life Coordinator. Nicole Gelfert, current Director of Residential Education, will temporarily step in as her replacement for the rest of the spring semester, overseeing the RAs that Diaz currently supervises. To find a more permanent replacement, the college will begin looking for candidates to interview at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NAPSA) 2020 Annual Conference, which runs from March 28 to April 1 in Austin, Texas. Diaz says that RAs will play a big role in determining who will fill her position and speculates that the college may hire two Campus Life Coordinators for the upcoming year to better manage their responsibilities.
“It’s just hard to find people who are going to be a good fit for the staff that we currently have and the very unique needs of New College,” Diaz said. “We’re hoping that it’s also possible that we may have some alums interested in applying for the summer.”
Until a new Campus Life Coordinator is found, Diaz offers two final bits of advice to whoever will be filling in her position: learn to listen to others and stay humble.
“It is super important to take the perspective of other people, especially when you’re working to serve the RA staff,” Diaz said.