Student Voice


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Residence Life names new director

February 21, 2014

Karla Thoennes has officially assumed her role as the new director of Residence Life on the UW-River Falls campus.

In her career, Thoennes has held four positions in residence life such as residence life assistant and director.

“I’m here because there were things that attracted me to this campus, I felt there were some really solid things about this campus in terms of the people, the organizations and the student affairs division,” Thoennes said. “The other reason I came is because I could see potential where there is already good things happening there are opportunities to continue to grow our department and meet the challenges that currently exist; the people working here are ready and excited to move forward and I’m glad to have the opportunity.”

Starting her career at North Dakota State University (NDSU) for her undergraduate degree, Thoennes took a position as a hall director in 1990 and then assistant graduate hall director. She then took a job at Mankato State University as assistant director, until she went to Iowa State University to work as a hall director at a graduate level.

The last 16 and a half years she has been working in multiple positions in the resident life and student affairs department at NDSU, a few of those positions being associate director for community development, assistant director for operations and student conduct.

Travis Pyke, a senior studying English secondary education with minors in mathematics and coaching, is also a third-year RA and is currently working in South Fork Suites.

Pyke had the opportunity to meet Thoennes during winter training when she had lunch with the South Forks Suites and Ames staff.

“My first impression of her is that she is a very kind person who is excited to be at UW-River Falls. She also seems very willing to take on the challenges of taking a new job at a university that is transitioning to a new Residence Life structure,” Pyke said. “She seems to have brought with her a new energy that can only lead to good things for this university.”

Having only been on campus since Jan. 13, Thoennes has faced a few challenges already with memorizing what resident halls are where, the new technology and just the University of Wisconsin system in general.

However, having such a warm welcome with her new staff and RAs has really impressed her and brightened her day, and has helped her transition into a new area and position.

One of the challenges the University currently has is the enrollment numbers are down compared to recent years, Thoennes wants to change that in any way she can so there is a whole area of the institution focusing on that and realizing that halls play a big role whether or not students might be staying or leaving UWRF.

Prucha Hall has been closed this last year and will be closed again next year to new students with not enough students to even fill each hall. The hope Thoennes has is that UWRF’s efforts to gain more students and Residence Life’s efforts to keep students or gain more students on campus and to live in the halls will increase and not become a disenchantment.

“I’ve learned a lot and I think that is now playing a good role in this current position as a director of Residence Life,” Thoennes said.

The University’s previous Director of Residence Life Sandy Scott-Deux took a position as the new director of residence life at UW-Stout, something she told her staff and resident assistants at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year during their fall training.

Duex left for Stout for the opportunity to work with a close friend of hers and to help enhance Stout’s Student Affairs program just as she did at UWRF in the middle of last semester.