Melisa Loa began her new role as Anna Maria College’s Assistant Director of Residence Life for First-Year Experience in August. While she is new to the Paxton campus, her whole career has been centered around residence life and student experience.
Even as an undergraduate student, Melisa worked as an RA. She then attended graduate school at Michigan State University where she graduated with a master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration and proceeded to work in the dorms as a Residence Director. After leaving Michigan State, Melisa worked at other higher education institutions such as Johnson and Wales and a nonprofit in Providence, Rhode Island before coming to Anna Maria College.
“I’ve always enjoyed working in the residence halls and connecting with students,” Melisa said about her work, “In that capacity, I think you see students at their best, and you see students at their worst. So, you try to be nonjudgmental, and just remain a strong support system for them.”
First Year students live in Madonna Hall which Melisa oversees. However, Melisa’s role at Anna Maria College is unique in the fact that she is also tasked with creating programming and events that specifically engage first year students while also inspiring retention. Events such as movie nights, study sessions, and even the upcoming Midterm Munchies provide students with support and a sense of community which is especially important for this population who are often living away from their families for the first time.
Melisa’s advice for students living away from home for the first time is to, “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Whether that’s having a new roommate who might be a little different than you, joining a club, going to an event, or attending classes, challenge yourself. Know that these uncomfortable situations eventually are going to become comfortable, fun, and exciting!”
As someone who lives on campus as well, Melisa is highly accessible to students and actively wants to make dorm life a positive experience for students who are just beginning their academic journeys.
Students living in Madonna will see Melisa’s smiling face greeting them and wishing them good morning. She goes out of her way to make sure that students are safe, happy, and know that they can use her as a resource as they navigate campus life for the first time.
“When I was walking out of the dining hall, I had a student come up to me and say, ‘Will you walk with me to financial aid?’. I said ‘Of course’, and while we were walking there, he explained that he was uncomfortable with new people. To me, that was a sign that I’m no longer considered a new person to him. Instead, he considers me a comfortable person that he can rely on. So that was a really sweet interaction for me,” Melisa said about connecting with students in Madonna Hall.
Melisa is excited to turn all the creative ideas that she has for her First-Year students into reality. Not only does Melisa have vast experience with residence life, but she enjoys making sure that each student knows that they are valued, and she strives to make Madonna Hall feel like a home away from home.