Alumni Profile: Sandi Scott, '85, '93

Monday, October 8, 2012 3:10:00 PM

Always an R.A. at heart

“I just want to do good work and do work that matters,” said Sandi Scott, ’85, ’93, who has two Stritch degrees and for the past 25 years has found fulfillment working in residence/student life.

“I feel when you work in higher education, you impact the world,” said Scott, who is currently the director of Residence Life and Student Rights and Responsibilities at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Sandi Scott

Despite Scott’s long-time interest in education, she initially envisioned a slightly different career path before attending Stritch.

“Since the third grade, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Scott said. “Then after a fulfilling experience volunteering in high school when I got to work with special education children, my plan was complete.”

Her interest in pursuing a career as a special education teacher led Scott to Stritch.

“My high school guidance counselor told me that if I wanted to do special ed., I needed to go to Stritch,” Scott said.

Once enrolled, Scott immediately took advantage of all that was available to her as a student. In return, she had a transformative experience.

“My undergraduate experience at Stritch changed my life,” said Scott, who believes Stritch laid the foundation for her, both spiritually and professionally.

“One of my favorite classes was authentic personhood with Dr. Perry. It was my first undergrad class and I just remember Dr. Perry starting with ‘Good morning, scholars,’” Scott said. “The expectation was set early on that when you were at Stritch to learn, you were there 100% and Stritch made you want to be your best.”

Stritch is also where Scott solidified her own faith development.

“Because of late-night discussions with students, Sisters, and Father Bill Kohler, OFM I was able to explore who I was as a spiritual person and how important it was to have faith,” Scott said.

Outside of intellectual and spiritual formation, Scott was deeply involved on campus as a student leader. Serving as president of the Student Government Association was just one of the many roles she held as she looked for opportunities to get her feet wet as a leader and surround herself with great mentors.

Professionally, while Scott pursued her bachelor’s degree in education, she did internships with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), which led to job opportunities.

“Because of Stritch’s reputation, you essentially had the job,” Scott said.

And in the spring of her senior year, Scott was well prepared for a teaching job in MPS. However, her plans changed after an in-depth conversation with Pam King, who was the hall director at the time for Stritch’s Clare Hall.

“I loved being a resident assistant (RA) on campus,” Scott said. “And Pam saw something in me and encouraged me to pursue residence life as a career.”

King encouraged Scott to apply for hall director jobs and attend the Oshkosh Placement Exchange, a job recruitment fair specifically for those looking to work in student development/residence life for colleges and universities. Scott was torn between teaching and pursing this other passion she had for residence life.

“I remember speaking with Tia Bojar, (now Stritch’s vice president for Academic Affairs) who told me that I could always go back to teaching, so I pursued this other opportunity,” Scott said.

That proved to be just the motivation Scott needed. She attended the fair that spring and was offered a position as hall director for Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, where she remained for three years after finishing her undergraduate studies at Stritch.

After a few more roles, including time back on the Stritch campus holding the director of Residence Life and assistant dean of students roles, Scott spent 17 years at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“Working in residence life is privileged work,” Scott said. “You are surrounded in such a rich, educational environment. Where else do you have the opportunity to see a Nobel Prize winner speak?”

At Whitewater, she held multiple positions in residence life where she was respected and adored by her colleagues and students.

“I really wasn’t looking for something different, because I loved my role at UW-Whitewater,” said Scott of her transition to University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Upon the retirement of the director at River Falls and encouragement by many colleagues, Scott applied and was invited for an on-campus interview for the position. It was that visit to campus that sold her on the job.

“I left with the feeling that I was called to be there,” said Scott who has held the position at River Falls since 2008.

For Scott, she feels her current position is her “ideal” job as she gets to work in the public school system on a campus with a private-school feel and setting.

“It has the ‘Stritch feel,’” said Scott of the campus.

And Scott is very happy of the path her career has taken.

“I still feel like I teach, just in a different manner,” Scott said. “The challenge for residence life staff is that there is always more work to do, always a crisis to take care of and there is always someone who needs you. But, I love it.”

Her position at River Falls allows for her to not only lead and mentor fellow residence hall staff, she also gets to work with student disability services.

“I have the opportunity to use my special education background, which has been great,” said Scott.

And after 25 years, Scott still considers herself a “scholar” who is always taking advantage of opportunities to learn and grow.

“And my dad still calls me an R.A.!” Scott said, laughing.