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Five Minutes with… Mitch Nasser, Director of Residence Life

Mitch NasserEvery summer Roger “Mitch” Nasser, Jr. takes on the complex task of matching roommates and assigning rooms, suites and apartments to 830 student residents. During the school year, he and his staff - an assistant director and six resident directors - manage the crises and challenges that sometimes arise when students live on their own and share a space, often for the first time.

Mitch joined the Student Affairs staff five years ago. He was employed previously by Miami University of Ohio and the University of Dayton. His easygoing personality, sense of humor and experience as a dad helps him relate well to students and their parents. “In addition to my wonderful wife, I have a fantastic 20-year-old daughter,” he says. “Parents, I know what you are going through with your student.”

Did you get along with your college roommate?

I was assigned a room [at Saint Louis University] with a sophomore. He received permission to move in early and arrived a few days before me. When my parents and I entered the room, we noticed a giant futon, a mound of dirty clothes and a homemade loft. “We will see about getting you a different room,” my parents told me. “No, this room is where I want to live,” I said. Needless to say, after a few months I was great friends with my roommate and two suitemates. These men shaped my college experience and pulled me out of my shell.

What steps does Residence Life take to help ensure compatibility?

We have a four-part model for assigning rooms to new students. First preference is by living-learning environment. Any student selecting our arts or social justice community is assigned to the corresponding building. Second preference is by desired roommate. As long as each student includes the other, we match them together. Third is by athletic request. Students electing to live with other athletes are matched with other athletes. Finally, we place students together based on lifestyle—their sleep, study, cleanliness habits, and so forth. It’s important to remember that students may alter their habits once they arrive at McKendree, as most have not lived away from home.

How do you resolve conflicts between roommates?

First, we defer to the students. While we are open to parent concerns, we will not act on a roommate issue without consulting the student. Most issues begin with small incidents that grow into larger concerns. Many students are fearful about confronting their roommates. They’ll often say, “I don’t want to upset my roommate” or “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.” The majority of students are unaware their roommates have issues with them. Fortunately, some issues end once the students reveal their concerns with one another. Some roommate conflicts are unavoidable and involve student relocation but the majority can be solved through communication.

What advice do you give students who have never shared a room?

I encourage roommates to have early discussions regarding cleaning, visitors, mutual respect and appropriate methods of confrontation. We train our staff to assist in these conversations.

Is there a single most common complaint or issue?

The most common complaint is typically rooted in miscommunication. Students find their roommates change as the school year progresses. Many times both students experience personal changes, alter their viewpoints and decide life goals while attending the University. Sometimes changes in others are a reflection of the changes within ourselves.

How do you manage stress?

I have the most amazing wife on the face of the planet. We typically tell our stories of the day each evening. I also try to exercise five to six days a week. I am able to reflect on my day while lifting and stretching, and have a new focus when I finish. I love the outdoors. Whether gardening, enjoying a campfire or watching the stars, I find I’m able to put problems aside and reach perspective.

If you weren’t Director of Residence Life, what other profession might you have?

Most likely a stand-up comedian or a lawyer.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I performed stand-up comedy from 1994 to 2007 in Missouri, Illinois and Ohio. My first performance was on a dare from a friend. I also have a cameo in the video game “Batman: Arkham Asylum.”