RDs reflect on the experience of living as a family on campus
Culture | Greta Sowles
Oakley Berg, 2, has become a member of the Lissner community thanks to the willingness of his dad Paul to let him interact with the students. | Photo for The Clarion by Drea Chalmers
Lissner 106 has light blue walls, wood floors, multiple hanging finger paintings, and toys decorating every couch and chair. The apartment, which lies at the end of a hall of college suites, is the home of Paul and Brooke Berg and their two sons Bridger, 4, and Oakley, 2.
Berg may be the resident director of Lissner Hall, but he is also a husband and a father. A 2003 graduate of Bethel's psychology department and graduate of the seminary, Berg has been a resident director since 2004. He served his first year at Sterling College in Kansas, and then moved to Bethel, where he spent three years on freshman hill before moving to Lissner.
Becky Johnson, the RD of Bodien Hall, and her husband, Erik, have raised their daughter Addie at Bethel, amidst the chaos of college life. Addie, now 16 months, was born during Johnson’s first year as the RD of Bodien during the 2011-12 school year.
The Bergs and the Johnsons represent a growing number of resident director families on campus. Raising children on a college campus has its definite benefits, including a deep-rooted support system and a never-ending supply of babysitters.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be in another season of life where I’ll have so many people volunteering to babysit,” said Berg. “That’s really such a gift.”
He added that his kids serve as a buffer, often allowing him to make life-to-life connections with the students.
Berg has enjoyed having his summers, Christmases and spring breaks off, as well as the simple breaks in the day since that time allows him to be an active dad.
While Johnson did highlight the accessibility to great babysitters, she also mentioned the importance of support.
“We have a lot of support for being new parents because we have people around us, connected to us and who know us and are really open to helping us out,“ she said.
Raising kids on a college campus can also be a challenge. Johnson emphasized that her job can be relationally demanding, which can occasionally be a hindrance on her relationship with Addie.
“I wonder if at the end of the day sometimes, I have given so much of myself in a relational way that I don’t have as much to give to my family,” Johnson said.
In addition to this relational aspect, there is also a certain lack of privacy that RDs experience. There is a “fishbowl” atmosphere, where students are interested in everything that an RD does.
“Sometimes there is a sense that you crave to be a little bit unknown," Berg said.
For Johnson, the challenge may lie predominantly in the fact that she lives beneath a floor of first-year men. “Some of the intrusions with shared life can be challenging," she said. “I am trying to raise a baby underneath a floor of men. I realize that it might not always be a sweet, calm atmosphere.”
Johnson has to use discretion in situations where she must confront students about the noise level. While she cannot call up to the guys every time, she has been able to determine when the intrusions become disrespectful.
Fortunately, Addie has grown accustomed to the constant noise, and is a pretty heavy sleeper.
Berg has experienced similar situations, in which staff meetings in the office adjacent to his apartment have kept Oakley awake. He, however, takes the blame, understanding that it would take the simple step of shutting the door or asking his staff to be a little quieter.
Both Johnson and Berg love the energy of a college campus and affirmed that the influence has been largely positive.
“I love that there are more people that are engaged with life, thinking critically, thoughtfully considering their faith,“ said Johnson. “There is more genuine openness, and it is really beneficial to have it around [Addie].”
“College students have been incredibly positive influences on my kids," added Berg.
Johnson and her family will be moving to North Waters next year, where she will continue her RD duties in a different setting. “I am feeling torn between the things we need as a family and what is required of me in the RD role,“ she said. “I am hoping that it will be a better match.”
Berg and his wife, who is due in April with their third child, will be moving on to their next chapter of life. He turned in his letter of intent in January but has not made any definite plans. With a seminary degree, Berg hopes to get involved in pastoral ministry.
“Lissner will forever be a really special place for my family, “ he said.