July 1, 2019 | Katherine Adams
When Kyndhal Stewart transferred to University of Houston-Clear Lake, she found a sense of belonging and community that she was looking for. She describes it as one of the most transformative moments of her college career. As one of the first resident advisers in Hunter Hall, she’s channeling her experience to help her fellow students feel they’re truly at home in the university’s soon-to-open residence hall.
The hall is the university’s traditional suite-style living community, placing students at the center of everything UH-Clear Lake has to offer, both academically and socially. Stewart is one of seven resident advisers trained to support students as they transition from life at home or another college and familiarize them with campus resources.
“I’d like to foster an understanding and a culture that is inviting and welcoming to students of all backgrounds, so they’ll feel like they belong,” she said. “Residents especially should feel that they’re being heard. They might not speak up because they think no one will understand where they’re coming from, but I have been there and I’ve learned to understand all viewpoints.”
Being a resident adviser is arguably one of the toughest, most worthwhile student experiences on the campus, said Director of Student Housing and Residential Life Matthew Perry. “As a student leader, you’re not only getting that leadership experience yourself, you’re grooming other emerging student leaders to take that next step in their development,” he said. “Being an RA means taking your leadership to the next level and reaching out to help students transition and be more successful socially and academically.”
Succeeding outside of the classroom is important to Stewart, who discovered an inclusive environment at UHCL that helped her feel comfortable and form new relationships. “I know what it’s like to feel comfortable in my college environment because I transferred here from another college where I didn’t feel that way,” Stewart said. “UH-Clear Lake is very diverse. I grew up in Alief and I had friends from all religious and cultural backgrounds. It taught me to understand cultural differences and I feel I can be an advocate for all kinds of people.”
She said she feels a special affinity for international students, or even out-of-state students who might feel some culture shock upon entering a new college environment. “I want people to know I’m approachable,” she said. “People, especially international students, should feel they belong and know they can make their living space their own. They could be thousands of miles away from home; they should not just feel like visitors. I have a lot of energy and I can put it to a good cause.”
Associate Dean of Students Iliana Melendez said that the entire campus community is invested in providing students with opportunities to keep learning outside the classroom while living in Hunter Hall. “Our faculty and staff will join Matthew and his team to incorporate experiential learning into the work they do within Hunter Hall, which will enhance our students’ ability to connect with each other through interactions that they wouldn’t necessarily have in the classroom,” she said. “They’ll have the opportunity to live and thrive together, open doors to conversations about what makes them unique and what they have in common, regardless of their background.”
As she prepares for Hunter Hall move-in this August, Stewart said her path to UHCL taught her many useful lessons that she is applying in her role as a resident adviser. “My main takeaway was that people should be appreciated,” she said. “I want to help people appreciate their worth. I want my residents to place value on their physical and mental health. This campus has a recreation and wellness center as well as a counseling center. I use both. This campus has great resources and the experience that brought me here gave me the depth that I need to become a better student leader.”
Learn more about UHCL’s new residence hall at www.uhcl.edu/hunter-hall.