Residential Life and the Choices We Make, an interview with Michelle Banks

“How did you choose to become an RC at IMSA? What led to this decision?”

“I graduated from IMSA in 2005. After graduating from college, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to be a teacher, so I looked at my options and thought it would be a good idea to return to IMSA since it had done a lot for me when I was a student. I started out as an RC in 1506 for 2 years, and then moved up to the Area Coordinator position.

“So you mentioned that IMSA had a profound effect on you?”

“I came from a really small town with only 1500 people. So not a lot of opportunities. The highest math was Algebra 3, and I thought that I could not really do stuff there. SO I applied to IMSA and got in…it put me on the track to being an independent thinker, and learning for myself.”

“Did you do an SIR?”

“No, I was actually very into art as an IMSA student, and I would spend around 6-8 hours in the ceramic room every day.”

“Have you ever had any life-changing experiences that taught you a lot?”

“As a staff member the main thing that I learned, sometimes with these students, their grades are slipping, or they’re missing class. You never really know what’s going on in their lives unless you actually go in and talk with them, and help them in any way possible to overcome some of the struggles that teenagers today are facing.

As a student, the most important thing that I learned was to never lie to your RC. {laughs} I used to break in-room—you know, not that much—but I am pretty sure that my RC knew, but not that she knew I had to homework and other things. Your RC knows a lot more about you than you would expect. I think that an RC should have a balance between letting students have fun and making sure they are safe—you don’t want to be a dictator, and I think that letting the students have fun is very important.”

“Do you have any advice for staff and students”

“For students, it would be that staff and faculty are not as scary as they seem. You should build good relationships, and those relationships will really help you out in life, and if you have a good relationship with them, they will be more likely to go out of the way to help you.

For staff, it would be never stop innovating. Things tend to get stagnant if you keep on doing the same things year after year, so be dynamic and change as the things around you change.”

“You mentioned that students now have more struggles.”

“Social media was just starting when I was a student—yes I had a Myspace—but now people just invest so much time in social media. In addition to that, just the stress of college applications. You know, when I was a student, it was just you have your good GPA, decent SAT score, and 6 or 8 extracurricular activities, you were like set for college. But now there so much more pressure and competition—you read these horror stories of students paying thousands of dollars for counseling services to help you get into Harvard and taking the SAT 8 times…”

“So do you have any advice for students to help us overcome that pressure?”

“The decisions you make now are not final. If you are not 100% sure what you want to do in this life, that’s okay because you have a lot of life ahead of you. You may go in thinking you’re going to be Pre-med, and then you might discover you have a passion for another field—just because you signed up for a certain program, it’s never too late to change. As you grow and change as an individual, you are allowing your future to follow that. You are never stuck in whatever you signed up to do. College is where you’re supposed to explore.

“How do make sure you find that passion you’re going to invest a lot of time in?”

“Try new things. Like, the biggest thing for me. Depending on the program you do, most likely the first few years in college are not nearly going to be as stressful as your junior year at IMSA. So you can use that time to explore and try new things—in positive ways only, though. It’s a great time to find out who you are.”

“And do you think that you ever completely find out who you are?”

“Well, who you are changes as you grow and develop. You know, a piece of artwork is never finished, it just stops at interesting places. That’s how it is with people: who you are at any given time, you can identify with it, but you’re going to continue to develop and grow. If you make some mistakes, you can always get back on track—even if it takes years, but you can always turn around and get back on track.”

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