Gatepost Interview: Kay Kastner Student support initiatives coordinator

Leighah Beausoleil / THE GATEPOST

By Leighah Beausoleil

Interim Asst. News Editor

What is your role at FSU?

I started here September 3rd [of this year], … I am the student support initiatives coordinator. I work out of the Dean of Students office. And basically, my function … is to help and assist students who have food, housing, and financial insecurity. But in reality, any student who is struggling with something that is extra-academic that prevents them from achieving student success can really come to my office. … I have developed relationships with non-profit groups in the local area that I can connect [students] with. I have access to a number of resources here on campus and I am generally versed in what each office does. … It’s kind of like going to your general practitioner, your doctor, and then getting a referral for a specialist. You can think of the departments in the school as specialists and I can make referrals and have a general knowledge of what it is they can and can’t do. For situations where we don’t have resources on campus, I have developed relationships off campus in order to support students in that way. 

What is your educational and previous work background before coming to FSU?

I went to UMass Amherst. I actually grew up in North Hanover, Massachusetts, but I haven’t lived here in Massachusetts for a while. This is sort of a coming home for me. At UMass, I studied Chinese and political science. It’s kind of like a weird combination, but basically, I studied social welfare policy and I ended up working with orphans with congenital medical conditions in China after college. I did that for a number of years, so I guess that was the segue one into the other. … I went to grad school for policy. It wasn’t domestically focused – it was actually a master’s of international affairs I got at Columbia. … After grad school … I stayed at Columbia. I worked there for five years working as a university administrator. I managed a master’s degree program there in quantitative analytics. … I went and worked at a congressional office of my district. We were going through sort of a huge change at that point. I was their constituent services director, which is essentially a case work director. So, oftentimes when people are really struggling in a district, they’ll call their congressmen. …  I dealt with a lot of people in financial difficulties – losing their homes, dealing with homelessness, dealing with hunger and food stamps. … Technically, it should have been if they needed help in matters concerning federal agencies – USCIS, VA, or social security – that’s where I had the strongest influence. But in reality, if anybody was struggling, we would take them in and see what we could do for them. … A lot of that is connecting them with resources and a lot of that is connecting students with resources here. It’s problem-solving. It’s connecting people with resources. 

What can students look forward to in future programs such as the Rams Resource Center?

With the Rams Resource Center, we are going to continue to run it as it has been run. I am doing some management work within it organizationally, just in terms of developing procedures, inventory management – things like that. Obviously, there are constant events that are going to be going around in order to supply the Rams Resource Center, but you know, I am in the process of developing activities with the volunteers, doing outreach, and things like that. But in terms of specific offerings for students, I’ve already been in conversations with some people who work in nutrition here at the University. I’m trying to make sure there is availability for people with different dietary needs and to make sure there is an availability of nutritious options, so people can have a well-balanced meal. A lot of people do rely on that [Rams Resource Center] for their source of nutrition. In that vein, in order to help people with that – because sometimes it can be difficult. [One of the goals of the Rams Resource Center is] being able to provide recipes that are created from things that are commonly available there. To improve our offerings …  is to get a better handle on what is being utilized, what’s being taken in, what’s being taken out. That way, we can make sure there is an availability of things that students might want or need. We do conduct a survey: “What kinds of things would you like to see more of?” So, I would say that’s where the Rams Resource Center is going. 

How else will you support FSU students?

Not actually directly related to the Rams Resources Center, but we do a coat drive every year. The seasons are turning now, so it’s starting to be that time. We do a drive every year to make sure people have a warm coat for the winter. In terms of additional offerings, right now, it’s sort of in the process because I just started the process of planning. Nothing I say right now is really concrete, but certainly we want to make sure we’re serving everybody. [Other initiatives include] developing programming for commuter students … and supporting students with families. I would say the bulk of students here are single – a lot of them are residents – but I think it’s important for the commuter student population to be well-integrated into our fRAMily. That’s one of the things that is really valuable about the college experience. A lot of the friendships that you are going to make are going to be lifelong. Beyond the friendship aspect, [programs] can really assist you in your careers in the future as well. We want them also to feel like once you come and you join the FSU family, you are really part of the family after you leave and sort of cultivating that community.