Gatepost Interview: Joe Barbagallo – Residence Director of Larned Hall

By Kathleen Moore

Editorial Staff

What is your educational and professional background?

I got my bachelor of arts degree from Rhode Island College, a small state school right outside Providence. My degree was a bachelor of arts in psychology with a minor in coaching. That minor was more athletic coaching and teaching-based. I got my master of education degree from Northeastern University with a concentration in higher education administration, so just administrative work at colleges and universities, whether that be in housing, the dean of students office, the administrative side of the house – not as much of the academic affairs. I got into that, really, by being an RA in undergrad, so that’s kind of where I got the idea to go into higher education.

What brought you to FSU?

When I was job searching, first off, there was a vacancy for a position, so that helps. But I grew up in Maynard, Massachusetts, which is 15 minutes north of here going up Edgell Road, so I was familiar with the area. My parents are still living in that house that I grew up in, so it was nice to kind of “come home,” per se. I was working in Worcester, so it was nice to be closer to home, and my sister actually graduated from Framingham State. She actually lived in Larned. That was kind of a funny little fun fact when during the interview process, they let me know that, “Yeah, you’d be overseeing Larned Hall, and this is what it would look like,” and I was like, “Oh, that’s where my sister lived when she lived here.” So, that was pretty funny. I also see a lot of similarities with Framingham State and Rhode Island College. With both being smaller state schools, they both have good education programs, similar student bodies where the students are really passionate about what they are doing. There’s a lot more access to education here than … some of the more expensive private schools, which had been some of my experience in the past – just a similar kind of small-campus vibe, which I think I really enjoy. All of that is what was like, “This seems like it’ll be a really good place for me,” and then, obviously, I got hired, so I took it.

What is your role at FSU?

I am a residence director. I oversee Larned Hall, which has about, I think, 330-plus students living in it at the moment. I supervise 10 of the resident assistants and I also help supervise the security desk attendants. So, my role boiled down, really, is just to ensure that the community of the building is safe and that people are able to really do what they’re here to do, which is to go to class, make connections, grow and learn in and outside of the classroom, and my job really is just to ensure that our residential students are getting that through having a safe community they can say is home, where they are engaged in different programs, that I can refer them to resources, and really just make sure that my office is kind of like a one-stop shop. If you’re having a problem, I can … either refer you to someone who can help with it, or I can assist you with that myself.

How do you encourage a good school/work/life balance for your RAs?

I think I try to remind them that they’re students first. I think that’s kind of the biggest thing when I’m talking with them regarding what’s going on. I think that it’s a busy position. I think with any busy position you might take, or any large commitment you take, while you’re still a student, there’s going to be some sacrifices. There’s going to be some growing pains. … I think that my least favorite part of the job is having conversations with RAs if they’re a little too involved, because there’s only so many hours in a week, so many hours in a day. But I really try to encourage them to take time for themselves. I’m always asking them what they’re doing on the weekends, or what they’ve got planned going on for the day, and not really in a, “I want to make sure you’re making good decisions,” but a lot more in a, “I want to make sure they’re getting off campus, making sure that they’re taking time to themselves,” way, because they do a lot of really important and good work with students. I think they do a really good job of being first responders when things are going on in the building, making connections with students, and it’s a lot of energy and effort that goes into that. And I can speak for experience with that, because I was an RA for a very long time in undergrad, and it’s really important to just make sure that you take time for yourself and that you’re recharging your battery as the year goes on.

What do you hope to accomplish as an RD?

I hope to build connections with students. I have some things planned for the year. I’m going to start … hosting coffee hours with Joe. It’s probably going to have a much more catchy name, “Java with Joe” – or something like that. We love some puns and alliteration. I want to make sure that programming is done in a way that students are engaged and that there are programs that students want to come to, and that they’re getting something out of it – whether it be more connections on campus, educational resources, life skills. I think there’s a lot of different things you get out of programming and I want to make sure that as I’m continuously supervising the RAs and their programming efforts, and using my programming budget just to make sure that the students are getting something out of it.

What advice do you have for FSU students?

The biggest advice I would have for FSU students is to engage with the campus community. I think that can be a lot of different things, but I think the biggest thing is that you can learn and grow so much at a college campus, whether you’re living on campus, whether you’re living directly off campus, whether you’re commuting – I think all of those are great, personally. I’m obviously a little biased toward living on campus because I work for residential life and housing. I also lived on campus when I was at school, but I think that engaging with the campus community is really important. I think you can learn a lot of things about yourself, a lot of things about life, about life skills, constantly challenging yourself with things that you’re engaged in. So, I really think that if you can get a lot more than just a degree out of going to a university. … Make the concerted effort to engage with the campus community. The biggest thing I’d say is just go be involved, go be engaged.