GRADUATING: Jess Hatcher will be graduating the university’s counseling program in December. (Photo provided)

Typical students balance homework, friends, responsibilities, family and work.

Typical resident directors balance work and their personal lives.

Jess Hatcher, resident director for Miller and Meadows Halls, is not your typical resident director — or student.

Hatcher serves as the part-time RD for Miller/Meadows in addition to being a student in the graduate counseling program at the university.

She has had to balance her role in leadership as an RD and her responsibilities as a graduate student for the past two and a half years.

The now normal life for Hatcher — consisting of balancing homework, an internship, and a job — will change come mid-December, as she’s about to graduate with her masters in counseling.

“For the past two and a half years,” Hatcher said, “I have not known what’s it’s like to have more than one free evening.”

During these busy evenings, Hatcher has had to coordinate meetings with her RA and RD staff, fulfill her duties as an RD, do her homework for her courses and counsel students at Taylor University two days a week as part of the graduate program.

She said her counseling internship has been “amazing.”

“I love it so much!” she said. “I love working with college students. I think they’re in a really unique stage of life and I really enjoy working with that.”

The internship required that she complete 150 hours of counseling a semester. Her first internship was at a private practice in Fort Wayne, running from January to August, with her internship at Taylor University beginning in August and ending mid-December.

To reach the 150 required hours, Hatcher said she had to meet with students for counseling 15-20 hours per week.

She said she had to shift her mindset from being an RD to being a counselor while completing her internship.

“When I’m at Taylor, I’m a smidge more professional,” she said. “I’m in a different role that has to be professional, rather than [that of] a fun, kind of ‘older sister’ or ‘cool aunt’ relationship, which I have here.”

Hatcher said creating this balance was helped by the fact that she was counseling students at Taylor University — students who don’t know her as their RD.

“I kinda [had] to turn off being an RD while being a counselor,” she said. “I had to be serious, like, ‘Okay, how’s this going [in your life]?'”

She graduated from Anderson University with a degree in psychology and youth leadership development,

She said she knew since November of her freshman year of college that she wanted to be an RA, and by the end of her sophomore year, knew she would like to be an RD.

“I joke that I majored in residence life in college,” she said. “I was not that person that you’d find in the library — I was on my floor talking to people.”

Hatcher said she “did whatever [I] needed to do” to be an RD after graduation, becoming an assistant resident director her senior year.

While she was an assistant resident director, she was placed in authority over her peers, having friends that she had to “boss.”

This didn’t stop her.

“I wanted to be an RD so much that I didn’t even care,” she said.

October of her senior year, she started applying for RD positions.

“I knew that’s something I could be good at,” she said. “Not everyone wants to live in a residence hall with 100 other people, but I did.”

She said she was hesitant and nervous about applying for graduate school because she thought she wouldn’t get in, but after a friend encouraged her to check out HU’s counseling program, she “took a risk” and applied, getting accepted.

She said she has been able to use the information she’s learned in graduate school and apply it to being an RD.

“Everything I learned in grad school — about people, emotions, relationships — I know that every student in [Miller/Meadows] deals with them,” she said. “It gives me a great opportunity to meet people where they are.”

She said having her masters in counseling helps her feel more comfortable when dealing with a mental health crisis or emotional issues.

For Hatcher, the job of being an RD and role of being a counselor overlap, and she’s able to talk to students who approach her for advice.

“Not that I want a student crying in my office, but I like that students are open,” she said. “Like, ‘Okay, this is good! We can talk about it!'”

The counseling program has given her more than just her master’s — she said it’s allowed her to deal with issues from her past and has brought her closer to God.

“I am leaving this program a completely different person,” she said.

Leaving the program does not mean leaving the university.

She will continue to fulfill her role as the RD for Miller/Meadows next semester and said she would like to stay in residence life for the next two to three years, working as a full-time RD. She has been hired to continue counseling at Taylor University for a day and a half each week as well.

“I don’t feel like I’m done yet,” she said. “I haven’t lived in the residence hall, haven’t been an RD without being a student…I haven’t had the experience that I’ve always dreamed of where I’d live in the building [and] not be doing anything else. I’d appreciate that.”

She said serving as an RD at the university has been a “huge blessing.”

“I have so many friends that are in-between jobs,” she said. “I’m so grateful that I’m in a job I love.”