Interview with Bhavya Dhawan, U of G Alumni, Residence Life Coordinator at Humber College
Written by Eva Sukhija - Career Services
Bhavya, being a U o f G alum, what helped you to land your current position from your experience as an undergrad?
“I enrolled in University of Guelph in 2015 in BA. Psychology. I was a highly engaged student from the very beginning. During my time at Guelph, I worked in many exciting roles, such as a Cross-Cultural Research Assistant, an English Language Program Buddy, a Student Experience Intern, a Peer Helper, and an Orientation Facilitator. After I graduated, I entered the world of housing at University of Guelph itself as an Assistant Residence Life Manager which opened several doors for me. Following that I worked at University of Toronto Scarborough as Residence Life Coordinator and here I am at Humber College. These roles acted as a ladder for me to land up to my current position.
How do you think the university experience helped you to achieve the skills that you have today?
“Universities are full of opportunities, especially experiential. University of Guelph gave me a platform to integrate my coursework and student jobs and create practical experience. I learned about mental health, worked and studied with multiple students from different backgrounds which made me passionate about EDI work and helped me figure out where the gaps are in our system. I learned how to balance my schoolwork with volunteering and other jobs. This mastered my time management and organizational skills and I have been using these skills till date at my current position.”
As mentioned, you were a Psychology major. Did you always plan on doing what you are doing today or were there twists and turns along the path?
“I actually started my undergrad in Zoology, which was far apart from Psychology. I came to Guelph as an international domestic student after doing my first year in India. I took psychology as an elective in my first year and fell in love with it. I always imagined myself in the field of education. Initially I imagined becoming a teacher and I might actually do it sometime in future. But in my undergrad I discovered things that I like. Student Affairs as a field made a lot of difference in my life and I wanted to give that back. Thus, I was able to integrate my degree into my current profession because of all the opportunities I got as a student at Guelph.”
If you could go back in time would you choose the same career path?
“I think this field fell into my lap and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I think it's one of the best opportunities I have ever received. There are not many BIPOC individuals in the field and I am proud to represent our community but also it gives me a platform to connect with students from a diversity of backgrounds and create opportunities. I am excited to learn and grow more within the field.”
What is your favourite thing about working with students?
“My favourite part about my job is to see students learn and grow every day, and it also helps me to learn and grow with them. University can be hard and challenging, it can be a lot for one’s mental health. I get to help students and their mental health and bring a positive change in their life every day which feels amazing.”
What is the hardest part about your job and how you navigate through it?
“With the current pandemic situation, the biggest challenge in the field of housing or with students in general that I’ve seen is loneliness. There are hard times because of safety regulations students can’t have guests or gatherings. Many of them feel that they’re missing out on a very important social component of their university experience. It makes me feel sad at times even though we offer virtual programming. I’ve also been actively looking for things that can help students feel more engaged and connected. It's a work in progress.”
What are the important safety or critical procedures you have to take to make sure of everyone’s safety?
“The world of Student Affairs has become quite virtual, we had to adapt based on our student needs but still had to find a way to keep them connected to the campus. For housing we had to tighten up several of our rules to ensure students are safe. Closing residence was not an option because we wanted to accommodate students who had no other housing, technology issues, were international etc. Our programming models are fully virtual now. We have to stay masked at all times, gathering or guests are not allowed anymore.”
How do you deal with mental health issues among the students? What is the one piece of advice you want to give students to stay positive during this time?
“My biggest piece of advice for students especially as they are working through a pandemic is to give yourself some time to relax and heal. It has been a lot adjusting to the virtual world but I see so many students have adapted to it which makes me really proud. We still have ample resources available online especially for your mental health, utilize them and reach out for help if you are struggling. It doesn't have to be hard, help is not far away you just have to ask for support. Reach out and check in on your friends as well. There might be someone who is shy and might not share what they are going through. A simple hello, a conversation can make your peers’ day.”