A Day in the Life: Beth West

By Therese Aaker, Features Editor
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Beth West, resident director of McDonald Hall, develops relationships with her residents through various programs, including “Suite Desserts,” which she hosts every Thursday in her apartment. Submitted Photo.

Resident directors run the show behind the scenes of campus life, some braving busy schedules on top of running their families.

Beth West has found it’s a full-time job, she’s learned to balance with caring for her three children.

“Many people don’t know it’s a 24-hours-a-day job. At any time, we could get called to take care of a situation,” West said. “We live where we work.”

Living and working as an RD in McDonald Hall has taught her “not to be surprised by anything.”

“A fire alarm could go off randomly,” West said. “Someone has to go to the hospital … it keeps you on your toes, and [I’ve learned] to keep calm in situations and to come up with a plan quickly.”

Exciting events don’t happen every day in an RD’s life, however. Most days, West thrives on the interaction between her RA staff and the residents.

“I love this college-age group,” she added. “I like working with RAs, and from there, they branch out to other students. I help them learn through their work — it’s a fun job.”

God’s got a plan

Born in DuBois, Penn., West came to Benedictine as a student in 1999 and graduated with degrees in music education and theology. As a student, she served as an RA for three years.

After teaching music in Topeka for a year, she applied to be the RD of St. Martin’s Memorial Hall in 2005, where her first three kids were born. After four years, she and her husband Justin took their family to Virginia, where Justin pursued his master’s in philosophy at Catholic University of America, not planning to return to Benedictine.

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Beth West

“We were on a summer trip here [at Benedictine] visiting friends and didn’t even consider the position,” West said. “But I felt called to apply [for McDonald], and two weeks later, we were back in Virginia, packing up to come back here.”

With their fourth baby due in April, West doesn’t know where they’ll end up, but she’s not worried.

“We’ve always played life by ear,” West said. “In Virginia, we didn’t have a house yet because we couldn’t move in for a month — we joked that we were unemployed and homeless, but Justin always trusted in providence. He sees it in so many places in his life.”

West said Justin was agnostic when he was a student at Benedictine. Now, he teaches the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes on campus.

“We’re happy to be here,” she continued. “We love this community…but we also know our family is growing and getting closer to a time to settle them down in a permanent home.”

Built on community

At a college where community is one of the four pillars, Residence Life takes its development seriously.

“It has to be a strong program,” West said. “There’s a lot of growth and development in the halls, and we help provide an environment that’s safe and fruitful to help them grow in their personal lives and spiritual lives… RDs are a very important piece of that puzzle.”

To provide that foundation of community for residents, West hosts programs with her staff throughout the year, including PMS Nights in the Schroll Center and the Man Panel, which is held every November.

She also hosts “Suite Desserts” Thursday nights, where residents come to her apartment for treats and a visit.

West’s work ethic does not go unnoticed by those who know her, staff and friends alike.

“Beth is a wonderful teammate,” said Allie Foster, Scholastica Hall RD, who has been friends with West for seven years. “She is supportive, passionate about Residence Life and has a desire to build community.”

“Beth is a genuine person,” Foster added. “She truly cares about the students, which is inspiring to see. She is a wonderful wife and mother, and it’s through her example of generosity that I’ve learned what it means to be a supportive teammate, RD and friend.”

West’s staff would say the same.

Nicole Hartwig, junior psychology and catechesis major and RA for McDonald Hall, calls West a “rock star” and admires how West lives a balanced life.

“She’s a very faith-filled woman. Looking back at the year, I see how well she cared for us and how she really took time to get to know us,” Hartwig said. “She genuinely cares about her staff and residents.”

Although the position of an RD is a lot of work, watching her staff and residents succeed is always rewarding for West.

“With the completion of a big event, seeing it in fruition … the excitement of the RAs and residents, those are my favorite memories,” West said.