Closing Time!

by Jessica Damour
@jessT_doit16
“You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here”

Chances are that if you work in Housing/ResLife, you may have greeted this title with a knowing groan. If you don’t work in Housing or the like (but you still work in Higher Ed), then chances are you know it’s that time of year where your coworkers in Housing carry around lock boxes, are never free on the weekends, and are knee-deep in key audits. I’m here to explain what elements of my first closing as a graduate student was like and offer some insight into this hectic time of year.
But before I do that, let me introduce myself. My name is Jess Damour, I am a second-year graduate student at Salem State University. I’m getting my Masters in Higher Education and Students Affairs and completing an assistantship as an Assistant Area Director at Babson College. I’ll be writing for this blog in order to share my experiences in my NODA Internship at SUNY Purchase in New York this summer as well as describe my experiences in this field thus far! 
A common theme throughout my first year of graduate school was the importance of organization and attention to detail. Before this year, I would have described myself as “moderately organized”, in that I always knew where things were, but others observing my system would likely not. However, upon receiving responsibility for just about 180 keys, I soon realized that I need to reevaluate my system.
The image on the right is what I came up with. The housing department provided each Area Director with plastic compartments to organize and store the keys. Needless to say, this box was incredibly important and became my constant companion throughout closing. I was given a checkout envelope for each student leaving my building. I divided them by floor and RA within each plastic container and left instructions for my team. The week leading up to our official closing date was a whirlwind of move outs, emails and other elements of my job. When checking a student out of their room, it is important to ensure that the key codes match on the key that is being returned, that the room is cleaned and that all of the student’s belongings are out of the room. This check is the first of many and it is the easiest way to assess if there is any damage in the room with the resident there.

The actual closing process itself took place on a Saturday night once all finals were over. I met my team and walked them through the closing process and my expectations for the night. They were given two master keys and a clipboard with a roster in order to mark each room as they checked it. The process was: enter the room, check that the windows were closed, check for damage (such as broken shades, dressers and other furniture,) and ensure that the students were moved out. As my RAs worked through the building, I did my first key audit. I used a spreadsheet with the key codes and compared the keys that were returned to me with the codes on that list. I then filed them in a lockbox and used the envelopes to keep track of lost keys or improper checkouts (when a student did not schedule a checkout time with an RA and just left their room). This process took the better part of the night, but I was focused on doing the job right the first time in order to make my job (and life) easier in the coming days.

When my RAs had completed their initial check of the building, I did a spot check of about 2-3 rooms per floor to make sure the rooms were completed along with my expectations. This was important in order to ensure that the building was closed properly and that no step was overlooked. Closing a residence can be a complicated and arduous task, but as I learned this year, it can be done so in a timely manner with careful planning and by working carefully and consistently. My RAs did a wonderful job checking the rooms and that night was our last official night as a team. I had one graduation senior on my team and after we completed the checks, I took a moment to thank her for her hard work and to thank my team for a great year. All in all, my first round of closing was challenging, but quite rewarding. Like a lot of the work I see people do in Higher Ed, you get out of it what you put into it.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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