Office of Residence Life Hosts NEOHO Conference

February 08, 2016

ALLIANCE, Ohio – The Office of Residence Life at the University of Mount Union hosted a day-long conference on January 30.

The conference, NEOHO 2016, was sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Housing Officers (NEOHO) collective association. NEOHO is an organization that provides opportunities for professionals in the field of higher education, specifically in residence life, to network, exchange ideas and resources and promote ethical decision making for their staffs. Each year, associated schools rotate to host this drive-in conference for their student staffs, primarily the resident assistants (RAs). At Mount Union, they are known as Community Educators (CEs).

To open the conference, Dr. Richard Merriman, president of Mount Union, welcomed approximately 350 residence life staff members in attendance.

“Forty three years ago, I was a freshman in college,” Merriman said. “And of all the people I’ve worked with in higher education over the years, I still remember my freshman year RA’s name.” Merriman went on to explain the importance of RAs on campuses and how impactful they can be to the students they work with each day.

This year’s theme was, “What is your chaRActer?” The theme focused on promoting and recognizing the often heroic efforts that staffs make while on the job for their residents. There were a total of 32 program sessions related to areas of diversity, programming, personal development, leadership, self-care and a few sessions geared towards graduate and/or professional staff who accompanied the undergraduates. Session presenters included professionals and students from the 18 institutions involved with NEOHO. Mount Union had several staff members present at the conference including four undergraduate student staff: Chris Brown, Brittany Coy, Reed Hardy and Anthony Sanabria. Other Mount Union faculty and professional staff members who presented included:

  • Rev. Marty CashBurless, Chaplain of the University;
  • Matthew Cintron, graduate assistant in the Office of Alcohol, Drug and Wellness Education;
  • Michael Kachilla, associate professor of economics, accounting and business administration;
  • Dr. Maira Liliestedt, associate professor of music;
  • Deborah Minton, director of student conduct;
  • Sara Randrianasolo, director of international recruitment and admissions;
  • Dr. Bryan Robinson, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice;
  • Lindsey Rudibaugh, assistant director of residence life and student involvement and leadership;
  • Melissa Turk, director of First Year Initiatives;
  • Anthony Turon, graduate assistant in the Office of First Year Initiatives;
  • Estela Vargas, graduate assistant in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion;
  • Dr. Michelle Vaughan, assistant professor of psychology;
  • TJ Wasserman, graduate assistant in the Office of Residence Life;
  • Emily Yoder, assistant director of residence life;

The schedule of the day included four concurrent session times. After the third concurrent session and during lunch, the top rated 10 sessions of the day were repeated for the fourth concurrent session period. During the closing of the conference, several awards were given out to the attendees. An award for the top rated session in each program category was granted to the presenters.

Each year, the conference host organizes a philanthropic effort to support an organization in the school’s home community. Based on recommendations from Mount Union administrators who regularly engage with community organizations, the Early Childhood Education Alliance (ECEA) was chosen as this year’s beneficiary. ECEA is a non-profit organization supporting six local preschools in the Alliance Area. ECEA’s executive director Susan Lucas worked with the conference planning committee to identify the preschools’ most pressing needs. NEOHO schools collectively donated more than 1800 items including tissues, paper towels, hand sanitizer, rulers, puzzles and games, crayons, markers and other art supplies.

The conference concluded as keynote speaker, Dr. Mark Savickas, professor and chair in the behavioral sciences department at the Northeastern Ohio Medical University and adjunct professor of counselor education at Kent State University, addressed attendees. During his speech, Savickas talked about how heroes influence who people become. He gave many examples of how famous people like Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and others have become similar to their heroes and involved audience members. 

Attendees also had the opportunity during the day to participate in a case study competition as pairs in one of two categories: new RA or experienced. Trophies were awarded to the top three teams in each category. This year, Mount Union established a new award to be given annually, the NEOHO School Spirit award. This traveling award will be presented each year by the conference host institution based on attendance, program submissions, case study participation, donations to the philanthropy, school spirit and overall attitude during the conference. This year’s inaugural award went to Cleveland State University.

In an effort to be more sustainable, the Office of Residence Life did not purchase water bottles for each conference attendee, but instead encourages attendees to bring their own water bottles and fill them up at water stations around campus. The Office of Residence Life also utilized the online and downloadable Guidebook App so that attendees could use their smartphones/tablets and computers to access the day’s schedule and events. While only minimal copies of the program were made, most participants utilized the Guidebook App and the downloadable program PDF from the website. You can also view the day’s PDF program on the Mount Union website.

Next year’s conference will be held at Ashland University.


NEOHO 2016

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