I Spy Someone making a difference.
Stephen Harrison has 'best job on campus'by Brian Druckenmiller
Stephen Harrison, director of university housing at Coastal Carolina University, is frequently told he has the least desirable job on campus. Harrison, with a smile on his face and a team of employees he will never stop praising, disagrees wholeheartedly.
A Virginia Beach native, Harrison started his journey by receiving a bachelor’s degree from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., and, in 2005, a master’s degree in education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. He then moved out West and took a job in residence life at the University of Arizona. After three years, he was given a director position at Southern Utah University, where he stayed for two years.
“It was fun out West,” said Harrison, “but eventually, it was time to come back to the land of humidity and sweet tea.”
Harrison accepted his position at CCU in September 2010 and immediately got to work. His role involves making tough decisions, providing information to project managers for future residence halls, accommodating a student’s specific living needs, alleviating a frustrated parent, and a laundry list of other minor and major tasks. His success is, in large part, the result of the team he leads.
"[The staff] that Steve has hired…is knowledgeable, mature, enthusiastic, and they really utilize their experience and education to offer a quality experience to our students,” said Jennie Cassidy, director of counseling services.
Harrison has been acknowledged for his recruiting efforts. The hiring of David Betsch, associate director for student success; Kathy Daley, associate director of housing operations; Rachel Means, assignments and operations coordinator; and a number of resident hall directors and other positions have labeled Harrison as an eye for talent. However, as he humbly suggests, the credit should be given to the players on his team.
“I get pleasure from leading such a wonderful team of people,” said Harrison. “It’s easy to sell an aspiring professional on Coastal, considering our growing university and its ideal location. So don’t give me the credit. These are extremely talented people dedicated to the institution and the students. I have been thankful for having them aboard."
Harrison has assembled his staff according to his vision for the department. He recently rewrote the department’s mission statement, making its goal to establish a “foundation of care for resident safety and success.” The department is changing the culture of campus housing, ensuring the best possible living and learning environment for underclassmen.
“We need to continue improving our community atmosphere,” said Harrison. “Living on campus, tying the individual with a community, fosters personal growth. It’s rewarding to see students develop into adults, and housing plays a big role in that.”
This culture is changing every day. With Harrison’s lead and his staff hard at work, University Housing is now on Facebook, and individual residence halls and housing communities have their own Twitter feed. The department also created a Wordpress blog (www.ccuhousing.wordpress.com) that allows students to meet staff and keep up to date with events and other information concerning student housing. To make things easier for prospective residents, University Housing plans to implement new software that will simply the housing application, roommate and room selection. Physically, the department has also organized University Place, CCU’s off-campus student housing, into five different communities: Grand Strand, Sandhills, Lowcountry, Piedmont and Blue Ridge. Not only will this unite buildings and create a more social atmosphere, but it will make navigating the area easier for visitors and first-time residents.
Future plans to add new residence halls will also aid in community development. The Master Plan, CCU’s comprehensive construction outline, calls for the addition of several new residence halls on the north end of campus behind the new HTC Center. Two of these buildings are scheduled to be available by Fall 2015 and two more the following fall. These additions will add approximately 1,270 new beds, bringing the total number of campus residents to nearly 4,500. On top of this, new student lounges, conference and common areas as well as new dining options will encourage students to spend more time on campus and make new friends for an ideal college experience.
“Our team is stoked for all these changes,” said Harrison. “We’re absolutely ready for it. We are appreciative of the University for accepting our input on these new projects and are excited to see it all come together.”
It’s no wonder Harrison often gets asked “When do you sleep?” When he can step away from his work, he likes to spend time with his 5-year-old twin boys, Caleb and Cody. He even gets to go to the beach at least twice a year, he joked.
Harrison considers his position “the best job on campus.” He was given the opportunity to change and strengthen the department to meet the long-term goals of the institution. While he is reluctant to take much, if any, credit for University Housing’s success, his work ethic and devotion to Coastal Carolina University’s students do not go unnoticed.
“Steve’s positive attitude is contagious,” said Debbie Conner, vice president of student affairs. “His ability to lead a diverse team and his dedication to the students are his greatest contributions to CCU.”