Former Assistant Director of Residence Life Russ Norris enjoys connecting with students under pressure.
“The reason why I got into student affairs is that I really like being with students when they are not at their best,” Norris said. “I like the opportunity to be with students when they’re in crisis.”
Norris has been the residence life coordinator here at Franklin College for the last four years, but after accepting a job at IUPUI, he feels ready to move on with his life.
He has an undergrad degree in mathematics and religious studies, as well as a master of arts in teaching from Pennsylvania State University. In recent years, he said he has “drank the Liberal Arts Kool Aid '' by working all over the spectrum of college positions. He previously worked at Pennsylvania State University in the LGBTQIA+ center and in the academic support department. Norris was also a math teacher at a public school in North Carolina for a time, but his sights were never set on student affairs.
“I didn’t go into my first year of college knowing that student affairs existed or what it was. So I sort of accrued all these different experiences that shape who I am,” Norris said.
He said he has served as a bridge at the college—a bridge between former and new leadership. He’s seen a lot during his time here, including the departure of a president, dean and director of residence life. Throughout all of this, he has felt conflicted between being a professional and compassionate person.
“There are tensions that professionals in this field have to navigate. They are trying to balance a policy with the individual or unique situation, so how do you balance the institutional policy with the reality that some situations are unique...balance being a human being who is very visible to everyone all of the time as a professional and being authentically yourself?”
Balance has been Norris’s biggest lesson. He doesn't know if he has always gotten it right, but he thinks he has improved.
Beth Ostendorf, assistant director of student involvement, said that Norris is a kind person who works hard to help others, especially when it comes to students.
“I’ve especially appreciated his dedication during challenging times, like last summer when he was the only residence life team member and balanced all of his res life duties, while also navigating a pandemic,” Ostendorf said.
Sophomore Resident Assistant Nolan Cook said that being an RA can be an intense job, but Norris made him feel supported.
“He’s laid back about the things that are trivial I guess, but if it came down to something that really mattered, I always knew that I could reach out to him,” Cook said.
Cook knows Norris as a person who likes to make witty jokes to lighten the mood of any interaction.
“We just know it’s going to be different. His personality—and just him—is so unique as a boss and a person,” Cook said. “We’re going to miss him.”
Another RA, Audrey Dykes agreed that he won’t be easy to replace.
“The more you get to know him, you get to know his goofy side. He’s not so scary, I guess. He’s one of the only people I know on campus that ever wore flip flops,” Dykes said.
Norris will become a Residence Life Community Specialist (RLCS) at IUPUI. He said he is honored to have been chosen for the position but plans to carry a part of Franklin with him.
“We all have chapters in our professions, and this is the next one for me, and I take my time at Franklin College with me into that next chapter,” Norris said.