By Brandon Gillet
Rachelle Clark, the University’s new Housing Service director, remembers the day she moved into residence all too well.
“It was a very scary time for me,” she said. “My mom dropped me off and I sat on the stairs in front of Thompson for about 20 minutes, then got back in the car and told her to leave.” Clark eventually returned to campus later that day, and this time, she did make it all the way into the building.
Now, more than 25 years later, she is back on campus and ready to welcome students, help them get comfortable in their new homes, and assist them in adjusting to campus life.
She fully understands how overwhelming moving into residence can feel at first, but she also knows how rewarding the university experience can be. She earned a bachelor’s degree, majoring in psychology with a minor in sociology, in 1994 and a master’s degree in education with a concentration in counselling in 2002.
Clark returns to campus following a long career with the City of Ottawa, most recently as a community and social services manager. She is very experienced in dealing with people who have widely varying needs, including children, families, seniors, people with disabilities, and individuals with mental health issues.
“I’m very excited to come back and work for the students, with the students,” said Clark, whose office is in 90U, which allows her to interact with the new community she serves on a daily basis.
Her predecessor, Associate Vice-President of Student Services Michel Guilbeault, told her that the job was all about “being a part of the students’ lives.” She has made this her priority, as she and her team gear up to provide the programming and support that first-year students need as they adjust to university life and being away from home.
She also recognizes that Housing Services helps prepare students for life after university by setting them up for the successful academic experiences that will launch their careers.
“Having had my own experience of residence, I’m hoping to bring that piece to it,” said Clark, who is now busy adjusting to her new job, building relationships and becoming familiar with the culture of the University and of Housing Service.
What really attracted her to the uOttawa position is how closely staff members work with students, and the positive impact of such efforts. Six weeks into the job, Clark is already immersed in it. Although her position will tend to be administrative, she has also been taking families on residence tours and talking to potential residents and their parents.
She recalls showing the Friel residence to a group of engineering students. One student in particular wasn’t happy about coming to university, chiefly because his request for a single unit could not be accommodated.
“But then we were able to show him the exact room he was going to be staying in,” Clark said. “He walked in and said, ‘wow, I could really work with this.’” From that point on, the student and his mother were excited and even decided to stay the night in residence so they could get a better idea of what his future university life would be like.
“That was my best day of work so far, getting in there and turning what can be a very scary and intimidating experience into a positive one for students and their families,” Clark said. “That’s something I plan to be involved in every step of the way.”