Dean of Residential Living Celia Easton shares ambitions

Celia Easton has only been the dean of Residential Living for just over three years, but she has already accomplished some of the seemingly unthinkable.

After finishing her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, Easton came to Geneseo in 1984 as a member of the English Department. She usually teaches one class every year, often an upper-level English class such as the Jane Austen major author study or a memoirs class. Now, however, she is responsible for the full-time job of overseeing residence life.

"I was interested in the administration part of the job," Easton said. "It's similar to an orchestra. I was a teacher, a musician in the orchestra – but what I was really interested in was getting a shot to be the conductor. Instead of just focusing on teaching, I could orchestrate an entire staff in the dean position."

Easton says that although challenging, the position is intensely rewarding. "Seeing young, new workers in residential life develop their skills and go through a process of self-discovery is one of the best parts of the job," she said.

Easton said also enjoyed the experience of watching and helping resident assistants juggle their jobs with their future aspirations – often wholly different.

Another aspect of her position that Easton noted was the sense of accomplishment in putting together large projects. "When a big project blossoms or we overcome a big problem, those are the best parts of the job," she said.

And projects have indeed blossomed since she has been here. The most notable ones would be the four residential college houses: Dante House, Writers House, EcoHouse and Gender-Neutral Housing in Genesee Hall.

Gender-Neutral housing in particular has been a smash hit, according to Easton. "Other schools call asking about the logistics, how to make it successful, what needs to be done for students to live together in apartments regardless of sex," she said. Easton continued, "We've been doing that in Saratoga Terrace for about 10 years. [The other schools are] astounded when I tell them that a gender-neutral residence hall has been such a success."

Looking ahead, Easton hopes to take Residential Living in the direction it is currently going by spreading the same community spirit found in the Residential College Houses to more communities, such as separate floors in the bigger residence halls.

"In places like EcoHouse and Dante House, the residents build important bonds with each other and really get to know one another," Easton said. "In the future, it would be great if we could create that same sense of camaraderie in the larger halls," she added.

Easton also said that she hopes to make residence halls venues where education takes place. "I don't want learning to stop in the class," she said. "Residence halls should be a place where students feel comfortable, but can also engage in unique learning experiences."

Easton, though only the dean of Residential Living for a short time, has already racked up many accomplishments – several of which have helped to make residential life a more engaging, dynamic experience. Next time you peer into a residence hall, look around - thanks to Easton, there's likely much more going on than what first meets the eye.