Congratulations to Anna Brown of Murray State University for receiving the 2018 Graduate Student Award at the 2018 KAHO Annual Conference. The Graduate Student Award is awarded annually to one recipient for their outstanding service to their institution.
From the award nomination:
Over the last year, Anna Brown has dedicated herself to Murray State University with a passion and focus that is truly awe-inspiring. She pushes boundaries, challenges the department to think from new perspectives, constantly advocates for innovation and care, and unites members of our community as we pursue achievement of our goals. She has drive and determination at levels usually only equated with Olympic athletes and scientists on the cusp of their next discovery. As a graduate resident director in her final year, she will be leaving a legacy shaped by the extraordinary contributions and service that she has generously provided in her time here.
“Anna [Brown] was the strongest influence in elevating the culture within Regents College, more than any other factor. She created a stronger, inclusive community and supported her resident advisors in a way that that they could perform at their optimum. Her communication skills are exceptional. She considers her words before speaking. Whether giving performance appraisals (one-on-ones), or showing compassion to the residents, she always seems to say the right thing to the benefit of the hearer. Organized, proactive, thinks days/weeks ahead when she plans…all this allows her to accomplish multiple tasks that strengthen the organization. I’ve been in the industrial and academic worlds for over 40 years, and Anna may be one of the strongest employees I’ve worked with. As College Head, she kept me in the loop when she knew the information would help me in my work. If I ran an empire, Anna would be my go-to person. She has been a blessing to me, Regents College, and the university.”
-Professor Mickey Miller
Department of Organizational Communication
College Head of Regents Residential College
Murray State University
Walking the halls of Regents Residential College today, the vintage fixtures and original 1960s cinderblock walls look the same as they did a year ago. The room furniture has not been drastically changed; the murals in the stairwells from a class of students a decade ago have not been painted over; and the building itself has not, of course, been picked up and relocated to a more central area of campus. And yet, if you were to stop and talk to students on campus about their views on Regents College, their answers would be so in contrast with those from the year prior that you might think they were talking about another building entirely.
“Ratchet Regents.” Anna Brown despised the phrase from the moment she heard the first resident use it. Over the past ten years, Murray State University, like many other institutions, has been in the process of renovating and rebuilding our campus housing. Newer, more expensive halls with brighter finishes, updated amenities, and that new building smell offer a stark contrast to their aged and well-loved neighbors, and Anna knew that students would make comparisons, but this was different. The resident was not speaking out of disrespect and had voiced the comment in the fond, joking way that you might use a crass nickname for a loved one, but the reference material for the phrase held implications that Anna recognized as problematic immediately.
In further discussion with the resident, and then her staff, Anna became aware that “Ratchet Regents” was well-known campus slang. Where her staff and prior Resident Directors had accepted the phrase for what it was, Anna set out immediately to make the change she saw was needed. In the following weeks, Anna would have meetings with her staff, her college council, and the residents through floor meetings in program focused on re-branding Regents College. During her meetings, she used the rebranding as an avenue to begin exploring social justice with her students as well, exploring the meaning of words, opening up discussions on microaggressions and language. She spoke to them about pride in their communities, their personal brand, and what the way that messages are received. She asked that they not only refrain from using that phrase and others, but to not be afraid to confront others when they were using offensive language. She dedicated herself to the project, like she always does, and her work has had a lasting impact on that community.
Regents College residents now refer to themselves as “the GREAT Regents.” Their resident engagement is at an all-time high; they had a record number of candidates go out for leadership positions last Spring; and, when Board members toured the building earlier this month and asked students about their experience, and why they had decided to stay in the building when we had open spaces in a newer hall, they were told by returning residents that they didn’t want to live anywhere else.
“I moved into Regents Residential College in the fall of 2017. When I stepped foot in this building I had no idea the impact it was going to have on my life. Like many others, when I first got here I was a terrified freshman. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was beginning to doubt whether college was for me. During that time, I had a wonderful RD who showed me I was wrong, and Regents welcomed me with open arms.
The RA’s fought to build a strong community and bond each floor together. I loved the girls on my floor and quickly realized that a home is not always composed of those of blood relation. Regents was my home; it was the one place on campus that I knew I belonged.”
-RA Staff Member
In the same way that that Anna drives her staff and students to strive for and be better, Anna pushes us to do this at the department and institutional level as well. In the last year, she has worked tirelessly to improve our staff trainings; she was part of a group of Resident Director who drafted a proposal for increased compensation for student staff; and she has supported our chapter of the National Residence Hall Honorary and Residential College Association. She has advocated for expansions in our social justice and mental health response trainings for staff and worked with campus partners to ensure that our staff and students have a great understanding of their resources on campus than ever before. The work that she has done has revitalized our department.
Finally, Anna is also impacting a potential future generation of Student Affairs professionals. In the last two months alone, I know of ten conversations that Anna has had with junior and senior students who have come to her to speak about seeking graduate work in Housing and Residence Life. She has inspired them through what they have seen is possible. Anna Brown gives me hope for the future of Student Affairs and Murray State University.