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Director shares fresh outlook on residence life

February 28, 2008

Sandi Scott-Duex, the new director of residence life at UW-River Falls, is well known throughout the UW-System as a go getter and a fun person to be around.

“People have been coming up to me saying ‘I’m so jealous you have her working for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, I wish we had her,’” Jason Neuhaus, area coordinator for residence life, said.

In the fall of 2006, Scott-Duex earned the Robert E. Mosier professional enrichment award from the Upper Midwest Region Association of College and University Housing Officers (UMR-ACUHO).

“They recognized her for her service to new professionals and to professionals within the field of residence life,” Kristie Feist, area coordinator for residence life, said.

How it all started
Scott-Duex grew up in Oconto Falls, Wis., about 35 miles north of Green Bay, and has worked in residence life for the past 22 years.

She attended Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wis. for her undergraduate and graduate careers. As an undergraduate, she majored in special education and minored in philosophy. During her graduate studies she earned a degree in management. She also was Student Senate president and a resident assistant while in college.

After graduating from Cardinal Stritch, Scott-Duex was offered a teaching job from Milwaukee public schools.

“I actually loved being an RA.” Scott-Duex said. “Someone said to me there’s this conference you can go to where they are interviewing people for hall director jobs and my hall director talked to me about it and that was how I got started.”

Scott-Duex decided to interview for the hall director job at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and took the job when it was offered to her. 

Scott-Duex lived in residence halls for 17 years.

She met her husband, Kurt, while they were both hall directors. They have been married for 17 years and have two kids; Kyle, 12, and Kelsey, 9, who have grown up on college campuses.

“Even when I no longer had to ive in it for my job, my husband did,” Scott-Duex said.

UW-Whitewater
Scott-Duex spent the last 17 years at UW-Whitewater, where she was adored by her colleagues and the students she served. While at UWW, she was promoted numerous times. She started out as hall director then moved up to coordinator for staff development, coordinator for community development, assistant director for residential education and associate director of residence life.

“Sandi brings a multitude of tools, skills and experience,” Jeff C. Janz, executive director of residence life at UWW said in an e-mail interview. “An organization leader, a knowledgeable expert on the generations of students we serve, a contagious laugh, a sincere passion for student service, and a very strong mentor for young and evolving professionals.”

Throughout her years at UWW there were many projects that Scott-Duex worked on.

“I worked really hard to add diversity to the staff. Both the professional staff there, as well as just the student leadership,” Scott-Duex said.

She added that when she says diversity, she doesn’t mean just racial diversity. Whitewater has a special mission to serve students with disabilities and there were many students who lived in the halls who were in wheelchairs.

“Sandi was very active with the development of our learning communities, crisis intervention, community service projects and several other areas,” Janz said in an e-mail interview.

The transition to UWRF
“It was funny. I really wasn’t looking; I was very happy at UWW, but in the UW System we are all pretty connected, and I value my other UW System colleagues and their schools a lot,” Scott-Duex said.“When Terry Wilson told me he was retiring, a lot of my colleagues said ‘I could see you there; I could see you in River Falls.’”

Scott-Duex had visited UWRF before and had a good feeling about it.

“I felt like it was just a great place,” she said.“I felt like this is a program that is in a good place and hopefully my skills and my experience along with the great staff I have, we can take it to another level.”

That’s how her new colleagues feel as well.

“I think we have a great foundation in our organization,” Feist said. “We’re really poised and we do really good work. I think she’ll be able to move us to that great organization status.”

Since Scott-Duex officially started full-time Jan. 1, she has already begun to make a difference in the residence life community. She is working on getting the staffing structure in place.

“Compared to other UW institutions in residence life, we are very understaffed. Fortunately, we will be adding two assistant director positions,” Scott-Duex said.

One of those positions will deal mostly with student conduct in the halls, something that has lacked enforcement in the past.

“Students need to understand there are consequences,” she said,“students should feel like they can sleep, study and socialize in their halls and if there is excessive noise and excessive alcohol, they can’t do that.”

Scott-Duex is working on bringing academics and residence life together.

“I’ve seen the value of learning communities where students live together and take some classes together,” Scott-Duex said.

Her ideas go past what happens during the normal school year.

“I think there is a great opportunity to look at ways that we can beef up the summer camp and conference program in the halls,” she said.

“When those youth camps come to campus during the summer, I believe we’re playing a role and five years down the road they may very well make this their institution of choice because they had a great camp experience here,” she said.

So far, Scott-Duex has had a great experience on the UWRF campus.

“The students here seem very down to earth, not a lot of pretense. I really like them,” she said, “It’s a really great place and I feel like I fit.”

Scott-Duex has been described by her new colleagues as being very outgoing, fun to work with and someone who gets things done.

“She has an upbeat personality and she’s easy to want to spend time with because she’s such a great people person,” Neuhaus said. “We’re really blessed to have her on this campus.”

“She is a go-getter, hard working and she won’t wait if she feels that we can move forward now, there’s no reason not to,” Feist said. “The thing I’ve enjoyed the most about Sandi is her focus on students and their learning.”