Leslie Maxie-Ashford is the associate dean of students and director of housing and residence life for Bellarmine’s mushrooming residential community, which now houses more than 1,100 students in eight halls. But residence life encompasses much more than just providing accommodations. She and her team also implement hundreds of programs and services designed to ensure students’ developmental and academic success.
Ms. Maxie-Ashford received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education from the University of Louisville. She recently became a Bellarmine alumna as well, earning a Master of Arts in Spirituality degree. Currently, she’s a student in Bellarmine’s Education and Social Change doctoral program. A native of Hopkinsville, she is the wife of Kevin Ashford and the proud mother of Elizabeth Jewel. And she dared to answer our nosy questions.
So, “growth” is probably a word you use a lot, huh?
When I began, we had 500 residents, two staff members and 13 resident assistants in four buildings. Today, we have over 1,100 residents, three staff members, three building directors and over 40 student-staff members in eight buildings. We’ve also added a graduate student apartment complex. Not only is this the largest freshman class in BU’s history, it’s our largest residential population to date as well. It has been an amazing experience to be a part of such a growing and thriving community.
What goes through your mind when you find out that the incoming freshman class is 80 students larger than forecast?
It’s amazing! The growth says something about who we are as an institution. Bellarmine is a great place. We genuinely care about our students and families. Of course the second thing that comes to mind is determining where everyone will live. I put on my thinking cap and do my very best to accommodate all students wishing to live on campus.
What kinds of adjustments did you have to make?
I work very closely with enrollment management. This year we offered juniors an exemption from the Residence Living Policy. That allowed us to open more space for first-year students. We also made some shifts in our staff members’ apartments to accommodate a group of senior women. Each day, we try to meet the needs of our residents.
Learning communities are all the rage now. Are they here to stay?
Yes, they are here to stay and will likely continue to expand. With the success of our first community, Galileo, we added the Brown Leadership and Eureka Learning Communities. We are very excited about this collaboration with Academic Affairs. We have established a great foundation and can only grow from here.
Are Bellarmine’s residence halls pretty typical compared to our peer institutions?
I’m a little biased. I think we are a cut above the rest. We are intentional about community building, offering over 400 residential programs a year. We truly believe learning takes place both in and outside the classroom. When students enter our halls they can be assured we will know their names and that there will be something to do during the weekdays and weekends. Above all, we are here to help them succeed.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in residence life since you were a student?
Technology. Email was just beginning to take off my first year in college and I was a sophomore or junior before I had my first cell phone. Now every residence hall is equipped with wireless technology, we offer PC and Mac labs and we’ve removed land lines from rooms because students use cell phones. We work closely with Information Services to meet the needs of students in the halls. We also use social media as a means to educate and communicate with our students. Everyone is invited to “like” the residence life Facebook page.
We hear a lot about helicopter parents. Are parents helicoptering in the residence halls?
We work very hard to give parents the tools needed to “let go” and begin to let their student tackle some of their own life challenges. However, our door is always open, and I communicate a consistent message to parents: We are invested in the success of your student.
With so many online and other techno-distractions, do students still hang out?
Yes, they do hang out. Now, “hanging out” may look a little different. They are watching TV, talking to the person next to them and texting at the same time. Community lobbies and community bathrooms play a vital role in the engagement of students, particularly our first-year students. It is important for our community members to have the space and resources necessary to hang out. However, I am old school. I still believe the best way to get to know someone is to just sit down with them and have a conversation.