February 9, 2004

Playing house

By Eric Rangus

When Andrea Trinklein steps out of her office in Alabama Hall to get a drink from the hallway water fountain, she'll glance studiously at the large photo collages decorating the wall.

The Office of Residence Life collects color portraits of its staff each year and, just like every fraternity and sorority worth its charter, frames them up in one large collage and hangs them for all to see. Every Residence Life staff member since 1996-97 has been so honored, and the collages start at Alabama's front door and continue around the corner and down the hall.

Trinklein focuses on the 2002-03 staff portrait. Except for those students who have graduated, most of the faces remain the same. Once a student joins the Residence Life staff, he or she usually sticks with it.

"I'll study the names and try to attach them to faces," said Trinklein, who came to Emory Dec. 1 as director of Residence Life and assistant dean for Campus Life. "And I'll always encourage staff members to drop by my office and say hello."

With around 200 residence hall assistants (RHAs), resident assistants (RAs), sophomore assistants (SAs) and community assistants (CAs), plus professional staff in Residence Life's employ, that's a lot of faces to remember. The 2003-04 collage should be up sometime this semester.

She moved to Emory after six years as director of university housing at Georgia State. While GSU has more than twice as many students, its housing capacity (2,420 beds) is barely half that of Emory (about 4,700 beds).

"I was interested in returning to a more residential campus," Trinklein said. The urban, commuter-student atmosphere at Georgia State was very different than Trinklein's other professional experiences, which were primarily at small-to-medium Midwestern schools (Western Illinois and Nebraska Wesleyan).

Joking that she has never lived anywhere more than seven consecutive years (2004 is her seventh in Atlanta), Trinklein said it is common for people in her line of work to be somewhat nomadic. It's a lifestyle she got used to as a child. Her father was a Lutheran missionary, and Trinklein was born in Taiwan while he was there training Chinese men to be ministers.

The third of four children, her family moved from Taiwan to Boston and then to Hong Kong before settling in Pittsburg, Kan., a town of about 25,000 in the remote southeast corner of the state.

"I hear people say they can't move because of their children," Trinklein said. "But children can be taught to be resilient. Moving isn't the worst thing for them."

Trinklein did her undergraduate work at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., which is where she first caught the residence life bug. "I was involved in student government and was an RA," said Trinklein, who majored in physical education. "That helped me get my first hall director position. You realize you can make a difference with people."

That hall director position was at Nebraska Wesleyan, a small college in Lincoln. For four years, Trinklein lived in a residence hall (as many professionals do) among her students and also worked toward her Ph.D. down the street at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (after graduating from Stephens in 1980, she earned an M.A. at Wichita State University in 1981).

"Students watch your comings and goings, who you're going out with, when you come home," Trinklein said, noting that while some on-campus professional-staff residences at Emory have private entrances   to their apartments, many do not. (Though her own home does have a private entrance--it's in Dunwoody.)

"When there is a fire alarm, you're the first to respond and people see your bed head," she said. "If you talk to anybody who's worked in housing, they will have a story."

One of Trinklein's involves an apartment she lived in while in Lincoln. It shared a wall with a computer lab that kept late hours--meaning that Trinklein often kept late hours as well. "I thought I was going to have to kill somebody," she joked.

She finally earned her first off-campus residence when she became assistant director for staff and student development at Western Illinois in 1986. She earned her doctoral degree from Nebraska in administration, curriculum and instruction in 1987. Save one year at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Trinklein was at Western Illinois until she moved to Georgia State in 1997.

Much of Trinklein's recent work at Emory involves "The Second-Year Experience," the University's tagline for the program--approved in 2002--that requires all second-year students to live in residence halls, fraternity houses or sorority lodges. About 60 percent of Emory sophomores already live on campus, and Residence Life has the housing to accommodate the approximately 400 new residents when the requirement takes effect in fall 2005.

"We're working right now on the programmatic component," she said. "I think this project has the opportunity to make the campus culture more vibrant. It'll mean embracing some traditions and ceremonies that are sophomore specific, much like has been done with first-year students." The program uses the term "second year" instead of "sophomore" because so many students achieve sophomore standing academically during their initial year on campus.

"The residence halls have to be attractive, especially when you have a live-in requirement," Trinklein said. "For us in housing, we want people to want to live with us, and we want them to live with us for several years, not just the year they're required. It's nice here that as a freshman you can live in Dobbs, Trimble or Longstreet, then your sophomore year you can live in Gil-Thom [Gilbert/Thomson halls], have a little kitchenette or whatever, and then as a junior you could move to the apartments at the Clairmont Campus."

In addition to The Second-Year Experience, Trinklein is wrapped up in staffing concerns. Late last month, student staff applications were due and the interviewing and hiring process was about ready to begin (those students selected will find their mugs smiling down from the 2004-05 staff collage). Trinklein won't be doing much of the interviewing--that will be handled by professional and returning-student staff--but she'll keep her finger on the pulse of the effort.

Instead, Trinklein will be heavily involved in the selection of an associate director, a position she hopes to fill by summer (there also will be a hall director and several internships open as well).

"There are a lot of good components to the housing program already," Trinklein said. "But it's nice to come in and do some hiring. It enables me to help shape the department as well as anticipate what our needs are going to be."