When you see Michael Simmelink walking around campus, you may wonder what he does all day. Does he just play video games with the men of Hospers or sit on his couch and drink coffee? Well, a big part of his job is spending time with and investing in students, but there’s a lot more to the job of a resident director than meets the eye.
There really is no typical day for Simmelink. Each day has a different schedule, so he thinks of his time in terms of weeks. Each week, he spends time in meetings and individual meetings with each of his four resident assistants and other students. As the assistant soccer-goalkeepers coach, he spends much of his time at soccer practices and games, and as the assistant director of student activities, he also spends time planning for Student Activities Committee events. Any extra time he has in the margins, he gets his office work done. He admits that because he’s a checklist-oriented person, he enjoys the “boring” administrative-type work and the tangible victories, when he can know he accomplished something.
Being an RD is more about relationships than anything else, and it requires flexibility. RDs have to be ok with their job not fitting the 9-5 mold and not being able to “clock out” after supper each day. Being an RD is all about, as Sim puts it, “being available to help and support students, especially the RA staff.” He supports his RAs through meetings with them individually at least once a week, as well as two group meetings a week.
These meetings are a highlight for Simmelink each week. Both RAs and RDs spend so much time supporting those around them that this time to be “off” and receive encouragement themselves is extremely valuable. They all need this time to share struggles and hurts and truly understand each other, as well as just enjoy being together and laughing at all the inside jokes they share.
Simmelink loves that much of his days include things that are technically part of his job but are things he would want to do anyway, like spending time with the RAs, meeting with students and going to praise and worship.
“I have often said I feel like I was made for this type of work. I feel a strong sense of calling to it,” he said, explaining that he even has tattoos of Coly’s and Hospers’s logos because both dorms have been formative in his life. He lived in Coly for four years during college.
“I wouldn’t be the man I am – in most of the good ways – without my time at NW in the dorm, and this is what drives me in trying to do my job well,” Simmelink said.
He’s in the business of making guys better before they leave, and his goal is to challenge them. He wants to be a friend and “one of the guys,” but as an RD, he takes his role seriously and is never willing to stray from his values or the values of NW.
Because Simmelink spends so much time pouring into others, he considers his social life as a strange thing. It’s important for him to get away every once in a while to see friends and enjoy being off campus.
He also recharges by doing things he enjoys during free periods of the day, like listening to ridiculous amounts of podcasts.
He says it’s like having a gas tank.
“if the tank is full, keep going. When it’s getting low, you gotta find a chance to refuel so you don’t burn out,” Simmelink said.
In his third year as the RD of Hospers, Simmelink hasn’t hit the burnout yet, perhaps because of his intentionality in recharging himself, or because of those he considers amazing in his life – the men of Hospers, his coworkers and other students he builds deep relationships with.
Either way, he hopes students see RDs as a valuable resource and worth getting to know.