KAHO Unbridled Spirit Award Recipient

Congratulations to Marrese Whitsett of University of Kentucky for being honored with the KAHO Unbridled Spirit Award at the 2018 KAHO Annual Conference. The KAHO Unbridled Spirit Awarded is presented to any individual who has demonstrated significant and lasting contribution and service to their institution while embodying an unbridled spirit in service for the betterment of their institution, state, region, or the professional in general. Recipients demonstrate a record of service as a positive change-agent in service to their students, colleagues, and peers.

From the award nomination:

Marrese Whitsett currently serves as the Resident Director of Blazer Hall at the University of Kentucky, where he has worked since July 2016. As a RD, Marrese is a master of his role and has continued to take on increasing responsibilities to better serve our department and students. Marrese began his career at UK in Roselle Hall, a small, suite-style residence hall on the North side of our campus. When Roselle closed to undergraduate students, Marrese moved to Blazer hall, which houses athletes and international students.

When Marrese arrived in Blazer, it was known as the hall with the most conduct and a disjointed staff dynamic. While he knew there would be challenges, Marrese worked to adopt a positive staff mentality and work to create an environment that supported his residents’ individual success. Specifically, Marrese developed a family-style approach to his staff supervision that helped to ensure his staff could rely upon one another. This has helped to enhance the community in the hall as well as their relationships with residents.

In Marrese’s second year, he took on the daunting task of planning Fall RA training for the department. It was clear in every meeting that Marrese was on top of every task associated with Training and wanted to make sure that we could provide a positive experience for our staff. In a time of uncertainty in our department (currently finishing a reorganization), Marrese maintained a consistent presence and ensured that training went off without a hitch. On top of his opening responsibilities, this was a tough ask, but Marrese was an excellent leader and delegator throughout the process.

Marrese has been a constant, professional presence in our department and has mentored many students and staff members through some tough changes. Since being at UK, Marrese has had over four supervisors, and still maintains a positive attitude. Marrese also represented UK at RELI in 2018 and continues to find ways to be involved in SEAHO. I believe he is an excellent candidate for this recognition. He accomplished all of this while the University of Kentucky Office of Residence Life went through a series of changes. The entire leadership team went through a reorganization. Some staff members were moved to other departments, while others endured the stress of reapplying for their jobs. Knowing that our department was short staff and without leadership, Resident Director Marrese Whittset did not hesitate to take on extra responsibilities to support his department.

It is not uncommon, nor is it wrong, when staff become overwhelmed and or frustrated when a department is transitioning and or experiencing hardships. However, Marrese Whittset an RD of 2 years embodied the unbridled spirit that many of us strive to achieve. The spirit to be a team player, a mentor, an aspiring student affairs professional and so much more. Without Marrese and his willingness to take on more, without additional compensation, without being asked to do so, just because he knows it was the right thing to do, our department is so much better for it. Thank you Marrese for all that you do. This department owes you more then we will ever be able to offer you.


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