Written by Audrey Sochor
Born and raised in St. Clair, 24-year-old Nathanial Shrapnell knew he wanted to eventually return home after college. Thanks to St. Clair County Community College’s new dorms, The Dock, he got his chance earlier than expected.
Shrapnell first became familiar with the housing project in the fall while he completed one final online class for his bachelor’s degree and utilized SC4’s testing center to do so. By the end of March he was SC4’s manager of student housing.
“I’m just really excited I was able to find a job opportunity that brought me back to this area,” he said.
His first public responsibly comes with The Dock’s open house on Aug. 3, and he looks forward to Aug. 15 when students will move into the dorm with him.
Shrapnell graduated from the University of Michigan in December with a degree in sociology and a concentration in law, justice and social change. While there he worked in the housing department for four years, the Office of New Student Programs summer orientation program for three, and security with the Division of Public Safety and Security for a year and a half. “So I’ve been doing that for a while now and it’s pretty exciting to be able to implement those experiences into a single role here at SC4.”
Shrapnell isn’t the only one happy he’s back in the area. Kristin Copenhaver, vice president of marketing and communication, said the college is fortunate to have him leading SC4’s housing efforts because of his experiences as both a recent student and an orientation leader.
“We’re thrilled that Nathanial is back in the Blue Water Area,” Copenhaver said. “When outstanding individuals and college graduates stay in or return to this area, our community wins. Their expertise, familiarity with the region and dedication to its success is remarkable and is of great benefit to employers and the local communities in which they reside.”
Being on call 24/7, Shrapnell’s separation of work/life balance is a single door. So don’t worry, parents, he’ll be right there for any emergency the 80 residents may face, but he won’t have to do it alone.
The dorms will also have live-in student staff of resident and community assistants. Resident assistants are students who have experience with the SC4 campus as a whole and will act as mentors for the other students, connecting them with campus resources and helping with any struggles they may face transiting into college. Community assistants are front desk staff making sure the day to day operations run smoothly.
“I think if you ask anyone who works in a specific housing-related profession it’s similar to working in a security role,” he said. “If something happens we’re the ones who need to respond first and make sure it’s addressed as quickly as possible.”
As for the single door that separates work from his personal life, “it’s part of the pros and cons of this position,” Shrapnell said. “It’s overall very worth it. Our job here at SC4 is to maximize student success. In housing that becomes my twenty-four/seven responsibility.”
It’s nothing he’s not already familiar with at this point in time because of his own college experience, he said. He also thinks his age is a strong advantage for the housing manager role. As someone who has just gone through it, Shrapnell is up to date regarding student issues and the struggles they face transitioning from a high school environment to an independent college experience.
“Students going through college today have an incredibly different experience than students who went to college in the eighties,” he said. “Social media, technology and online communities have realized consequences an entire generation is dealing with. The general trend is that mental health concerns are also on the rise, so the experiences of students will be very different here in 2018 than someone experiencing it during their parents’ time.”
Being in his mid-twenties also makes him more relatable, as well as a mentor. He’s a tangible example of what they can achieve in a few years if they put in the work.
On-campus housing allows Shrapnell and his staff to not only increase the distance of where students are coming from, but they can also offer continual advice and guidance to those students. Between him and the other employees, The Dock is designed to develop students in four core aspects: academics, professional development, multi-culturalism and inclusion, and social.
“Obviously they’re here at SC4 to gain that degree, to gain that knowledge and skills they need for future careers,” he said. And while housing will help them achieve that more conveniently with closer proximity to campus, Shrapnell will take it beyond with workshops on how to build a resume and how to job interview. He will also host social events and create a homelike feeling for the residents.
“A lot of students coming in, when they think of housing they think of it as, ‘oh, this is where I’m going to be living,’” he said. “By the end of the year they’ll find it is so much more than that. It’s an overall community, it’s something they belong to, it’s a life experience of building connections and community.”
Shrapnell’s advice to all students? Strive for independence and take on responsibility, get involved and don’t neglect your studies.
Taking his own advice, Shrapnell worked throughout college so a lot of his best memories are work related, but his favorite involved a non-traditional student – a man in his 50s who, after sending his three children through college, decided to earn his own degree.
Shrapnell was his resident assistant and as sociology majors they both ended up in the same class. They quickly bonded and spent time together that entire year, but lost touch when the school year came to an end. Fast forward and they’re both about to graduate.
When the man noticed Shrapnell’s name on the graduation list, he tracked Shrapnell down at his office and introduced him to his wife. “He was telling his wife, ‘this young man made my first year. He showed me where my classes were, he really made that difference.’
“It just hit me right in the gut,” Shrapnell said. “It was really emotional and it was like one of those a-ha moments, you know? It really justifies all the effort that you put in, just that one little moment that makes everything worth it.”