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UWRF area coordinator resigns

May 8, 2009

Jason Neuhaus, the east end area coordinator for the UW-River Falls campus, has resigned effective June 30. A search and screen committee has been put in place to find a replacement.

According to Sandi Scott-Deux, the director of residence life, a search and screen committee has already been meeting and has identified the candidates that they will be conducting phone interviews with. After the initial round of phone interviews, the committee will bring to campus the candidates they like sometime in late May. The desire is to fill the vacant coordinator spot in summer so they can become acclimatized to campus before fall semester.

Neuhaus has worked for UWRF as one of the two area coordinators for just under five years. According to the position job description “the area coordinator is responsible for creating and administering a comprehensive living learning environment for 1,250 students. This position manages operations, programs and services for five residence halls and adjudicates the student conduct process in five residence halls. Additionally, the area coordinator advises area council and NRHH and supervises five undergraduate hall managers and 32 resident assistants.”

Neuhaus said he resigned in response to a push by Residence Life to move the two area coordinators on-campus. Neuhaus could have stayed at UWRF if he had decided to live in the apartment in South Fork Suites. Neuhaus said he decided not to because of his two-year-old son and his dog.

Scott-Deux said she will miss Neuhaus and all that he brought to this University.

“I will miss Jason, his wit, his desire to serve students and his acts of kindness. He is a wonderful person.”

Neuhaus grew up on the family farm in Bennington, Neb. His parents, Larry and Karen, farmed mainly corn and beans, with some cattle for the spring sale. As a child, Neuhaus said he enjoyed playing basketball, singing in the choir and participating in the school theater productions. His most notable role came when he assumed the role if Kinnicki in Grease.

“I had to change some the lyrics because I knew my very conservative grandfather would be in the audience,” Neuhaus said.

After graduating the same high school his father and grandfather did, Neuhaus attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“I chose there because I was offered a few scholarships, including the Regents scholarship,” Neuhaus said. “But I lost that one in the first year because I had some difficulty understanding my honors calculus course.”

In his junior year, Neuhaus switched his major from math to psychology.

That same year, Neuhaus became a resident assistant (RA) in Harper Hall. Little did Jason know at the time, the position would influence the rest of his professional career.

During his three years as an RA, Neuhaus was mentored by his hall director, Matt Phillips.

“I remember he encouraged me to pursue student affairs as a career,” Neuhaus said. “I was shocked and asked ‘You can do this for a living?’ He simply replied ‘I do this for a living.’”

After graduating, Neuhaus went immediately into a masters program in counseling and student personnel at Minnesota State University Mankato.

“I went for my master’s right away after having an amazing experience taking a course in orientation on student life and development. Matt urged me to take the course and it really gave me a sense of student affairs was all about.”

After graduating, Neuhaus took a position as a hall director at the University of Minnesota-Morris in 1998.
On the campus of only 900 students, Neuhaus was one of two professional directors.

“I liked it,” Neuhaus said. “It was the most liberal campus I have ever worked at but the students were all smart and hard-working. I served as a role model for some very talented undergrads, and I still remain in contact with several of them.”

After four years at Morris, working in the middle of nowhere, Neuhaus said he wanted more of a social life. So he began applying to some larger schools in bigger cities and wound up at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

There, Neuhaus assumed the role of area coordinator in charge of two halls: one directly and the other by supervising an undergrad hall director.

“I lived in Ireland Hall,” Neuhaus said. “The building was 100 years old and one winter I caught 30 mice. And I was on the third floor.”

In 2003, while working at St. Thomas, Neuhaus joined eHarmony after a year of unsuccessful dating. On the day that his one month trial ended, Neuhaus was contacted by Hallie Harris.

“We were engaged after six months and married within a year,” Neuhaus said.

Shortly before the wedding, Neuhaus was contacted by Carie Fealy, an area coordinator for UWRF. She encouraged Neuhaus to apply for the upcoming open position of live-off area coordinator. Neuhaus came to campus for an interview.

“I was really impressed that 15 students came to a summer open interview,” Neuhaus said.

Neuhaus was offered the position two days before his wedding, on July 8, 2004.

“What I’ve liked most about UWRF was the students,” Neuhaus said, “how genuine and hardworking they are. It’s also been very unique working with so many first generation students.”

Neuhaus says that although he loves this campus, there are a few things he will not miss.

“Some days I don’t spend as much time in the residence halls as I would like,” Neuhaus said. “And I really won’t miss the crappy conversations with students and their parents that are the result of poor decisions.”

Neuhaus said he will miss the members of the residence life professional staff here at UWRF. Staff that, according to Neuhaus, are very genuine and who foster an atmosphere of recognition.

And several members of the pro staff said they will miss Neuhaus as well.

“Jason has always made himself available to staff and students and cares deeply about their growth and development,” Scott-Deux said. “I would be hard pressed to find anyone who has a stronger sense of ethics and values. Students have benefited from the conversations and interactions they have had with Jason and the gentle challenging he has done with them to encourage them to take high road.”

Kristie Feist, the assistant director of community development and education, said she remembers when she first arrived at UWRF. Neuhaus was very helpful in showing her around the University and River Falls community.

“Jason has shown the students he works with compassion and kindness. Never one to take things too seriously, Jason could always be counted on for a laugh or to lighten a tense mood,” Feist said.

Neuhaus also helped orient Tracy Gerth, the new west end area coordinator.

“I’ll miss him being in the next cubicle,” Gerth said. “He has been a fabulous resource for me to bounce ideas off of, to ask questions about the history of the department and generally talk to about UWRF. He has been a huge help to me and I will miss being able to go to him for assistance.”

Neuhaus has influenced more than just the professional. He said he has really enjoyed working with the hall managers and seeing them grow and develop.

“I would describe Jason as a very caring supervisor who wants what is best for students,” Mallory Schultz, the Johnson Hall manager, said. “He has continually gone out of his way to lend a hand and has a unique sense of humor. He will definitely be missed at UWRF.”

“My wife was completely supportive of my decision when I was deciding to move on campus or not,” Neuhaus said. “But I didn’t want to raise my son, Heathley, in a dorm and moving on-campus would mean I would have to get rid of my dog.”

Neuhaus has begun looking for another job around the Twin Cities, where Hallie works as a teacher in the public school system.

“I’m open to working in any area of student life,” Neuhaus said, “but there are no student affairs positions open right now. I have applied for a few private sector customer service positions but I will ultimately want to get back to helping college students and their transition into adulthood.”

Neuhaus said that leaving the possibility of leaving student affairs saddens him. He said he has really enjoyed building relationships with students and seeing the sparks in students’ heads as they “just get it.”