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Department of Community Living welcomes new director

By Ethan Berceli

Section: News

August 22, 2014

The newest face in the Brandeis community is Timothy Touchette, the new director of community living. Touchette began working at Brandeis on Aug. 11, in plenty of time for the 2014 Fall semester.

Touchette’s duties include overseeing the management and daily operations of Brandeis’ 11 residential areas. These buildings house some 2,900 students. His team, which includes two assistant directors and over 70 community-living team members, is responsible for working with campus departments and the local community. Together, they will strive to create an environment that embodies Brandeis’ ideals. Touchette will take over for Associate Dean of Student Life Maggie Balch, who served as interim director before him.

The new appointment comes in a time of transition. The Department of Community Living and Facilities Services are remodeling the Foster Mods and two of the four Ziv buildings in time for the fall semester, and just last summer, remodeling was completed in the East residence halls. Adding to the confusion, this past spring Brandeis launched a new housing and lottery system.

With a background in hospitality and management as well as academia, Touchette is well poised to meet these challenges and already has eyes towards the future. “I have been impressed with some of the quality of the facilities here and I hope to continue in a trend that keeps Brandeis’ residence halls at the top of their game,” he said in an interview with The Hoot.

Prior to becoming Brandeis’ director of community living, Touchette worked in several different positions in the housing department at Northeastern University. He most recently served as associate director of housing services and operations, where he developed and maintained operational aspects for their campus of over 9,000 students. Prior to Northeastern, Touchette was a resident director at Bryant University.

Although it is not something many students think about every day, the director of community living is a person who influences students’ day-to-day lives in a crucial way. Touchette has experienced this himself. As a first-year at Rhode Island College, his room was luckily de-tripled a few days before he arrived, leaving him with a traditional freshman double to start. Touchette described how at first his new living situation was awkward, and then worthwhile, and finally it became unforgettable. He is still in touch with his first-year roommate today. His goal is to aid in the creation of something similarly meaningful for the Brandeis community.

Part of this creation involves regulating the stress and anxieties inherent in every first-year’s college beginnings, and Touchette believes a subtle balance must be found. “I want to try my best in every way to alleviate as much stress and anxiety as possible. But I also want students to grow as I did in their transition from high school to college. That is part of life and part of growing up,” he said.

Touchette is looking forward to the intimacy that a smaller-sized Brandeis campus will offer (in comparison to his last six years at Northeastern). The big campus he worked at and the large volume of interactions that took place within his office didn’t allow for many lasting connections to be made along the way. Although Touchette (surprisingly, he says) didn’t know much about Brandeis before, he has been so far pleased with the people he has met and the community he is starting to become a part of.

“Here, I feel I will be able to better connect with students, staff and faculty, which will better enable me to immerse myself into the Brandeis experience,” he said.

One high point Touchette can take away from his time at Northeastern is a “Distinguished Service Award” from the GLBTQA Resource Center. As part of his department’s mission to meet all students’ housing needs, he helped create and start Gender Neutral Housing at Northeastern, a major undertaking. The program grew in numbers each year after it was started, and this important initiative as well as the award he received for it has had a lasting impression on him.

Touchette strives to enact meaningful change in the lives of students, through the medium of housing. “The award was a high point for me and it made me feel like I had left my mark on the community at Northeastern. I hope I can make my mark here in a meaningful way as well,” he said.

Touchette also mentioned that he has always been drawn to academia, culminating with his doctorate in education from Northeastern. “My decision to complete a doctorate truly sealed my fate in the world of academia. I have been teaching students development theory for the last four years, and as a result of my interactions with students both in- and outside of the classroom, I have come to understand that higher education is where I truly belong,” he said.

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