Applying for jobs during his senior year at James Madison University, Guillermo Ubilla realized that what he was going to miss most about leaving college were not his computer science classes — the field in which he majored and was about to enter in the career world — but the interaction with other students and the residence life staff.
“I knew I would not be happy unless I was doing something that I was passionate about,” said Ubilla, who will begin as the director of residence life at Mary Baldwin University in July.
After that fateful decision, Ubilla earned his Masters of Education in counseling psychology from JMU and accepted a position as the living and learning coordinator at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. For the past year, Ubilla served as Shenandoah’s director of residence life. He was born and lived briefly in Ecuador, and spent time growing up in Texas, Alabama, and Virginia, among other states.
Ubilla’s approach to residence life is to make a clear distinction between housing students and operating a hotel. “Anyone can give people a room with a bed to sleep in and some amenities. At a college, it is really more about extending the educational and community aspects to show students that they can learn — about interests, cultures, service — while in their dorms, too.”
Shenandoah University created four Living and Learning Communities — one each for music, leadership, living well, and international interests — during Ubilla’s tenure at the school. The intent was to group students with similar interests so they would be there to encourage each other, complete service projects, and share their interests with the rest of campus. “It has added value to the residence life experience,” he said.
Greg Meek, associate dean of student life, said Ubilla’s experience with themed housing and living-learning communities and his compassion for students helped him stand out from the pool of about 25 applicants, five of whom were male. Ubilla will be the first man to hold his position at the college, a factor that the search committee took seriously but did not use to determine the top candidate, Meek said.
“We received applications from as far away as Oregon, and his qualifications and devotion to the students set him apart,” Meek added.
Keli Diewald ’01, the residence life director for two years, left the position at the end of June to become a third grade teacher for Scotland County Schools in North Carolina.
A staff advisor for the Student Government Association and Omicron Delta Kappa at Shenandoah, Ubilla hopes to continue working with student clubs and conducting professional research while at Mary Baldwin.
“Being connected with students while they are developing their interests is a big part of the job,” he said.
Melinda S. Brown, a former residence life employee at Shenandoah University, Oregon State University and Saint Mary’s College of Indiana, was named the new associate director of residence life and freshman services. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Sweet Briar College and her master of education degree from Oregon State.