Assistant Director of Residential Education and Housing Bonny Sucherman. Photo provided by Lawrence University on SmugMug.
Lawrence’s Assistant Director of Residential Education (ResEd) and Housing Bonny Sucherman is departing from Lawrence at the beginning of June. Sucherman will be serving as Director of Residence Life at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Ill.
Sucherman has been at Lawrence since 2017. She was the Residence Hall Director (RHD) for Hiett Hall and the smaller residential buildings, including the quad houses, the lofts in Colman Hall and the houses on East Boldt Way. In 2019, she became Assistant Director of ResEd and Housing while continuing to serve as RHD. This academic year was her first year solely as Assistant Director.
One of Sucherman’s proudest achievements at Lawrence has been helping to reform the Community Advisor (CA) role on campus. She recalled that CAs were known as Residence Life Advisors (RLA) during her first year here, and they worked six hours a week. She said that this led to residents not getting the help they needed, and student staff not being compensated enough. Sucherman was part of the team that increased the job to 10 hours per week with more community building. She’s also proud of developing the programming requirements during CA training, which she believes helps CAs more fully support incoming students.
Sucherman commented that she’s moving on because her family and friends still live in the Chicago area. She added that she wants to continue serving as a leader in student and residence life and is thinking about applying for a Dean of Students role at some point. She feels good about the changes she’s made at Lawrence and feels confident that Lawrence will be in good hands with its housing staff during the next academic year.
She reflected on the challenges she experienced in her role, stating that her department was often understaffed, meaning that staff members were taking on more work than they had the capacity to do. She added that this was frustrating because she wanted to do more to support students.
Sucherman also discussed her relationship with students at Lawrence and feels that she understands when students struggle because she faced challenges during her time in college. Sucherman graduated from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., and thought about transferring her first year. Although things turned out very well for her after the first year, she recognizes that it was connections and community that led to her staying and having a meaningful college experience. She knows what it feels like to not know who you can go to for help and feels that this experience has led her to be someone who advocates for and listens to students.
“I do actually care,” said Sucherman. “When I’m interacting with [students]…I want them to leave that interaction knowing that.”
She also mentioned that empathy is an important value that has helped her in her role.
“I can’t understand what any individual is going through,” said Sucherman. “But I get it…that informs a lot of my work.”
Looking to the future of Lawrence, Sucherman believes that improving the student experience is key to creating an institution that is sustainable going forward. She commented that, while there are great parts of the Lawrence experience, those aren’t always accessible to everyone, and that Lawrence needs to look at the student experience holistically.
“If you’re coming on tour and realizing that…there’s only one hall that I can really live in because it’s the only space that’s accessible to me, you’re probably going somewhere else,” Sucherman said.
She believes there are other areas Lawrence needs to work on too, including making systemic change for students from historically marginalized communities. She wants to see Lawrence build an institution that’s welcoming for students that it wasn’t always designed for, as we move into the future. She also talked about the need to invest in facilities and Wellness Services. Fundamentally, she wants students to feel like they belong and have a positive experience.
Sucherman also discussed the need for community building. She believes that it starts with relationship building and transparency about the meaning of community and the importance of connections. She believes that we need to be mindful of how our actions affect each other, and not just ourselves.
“It’s easier to care about the members of your community when you know the members of your community,” said Sucherman.
Sucherman is confident in the CA team selected this year and stated that the current and incoming CAs are “fantastic.” She has been proud to see more and more CA applications each year and feels that the incoming class of CAs are passionate and dedicated because they’ve seen many of the problems on campus this year.
Sucherman had words of advice for her successor.
“Really listen to the students,” said Sucherman “But also trust what you know.”
Sophomore LJ Jensen, who knows Sucherman through her own CA application process and is working on setting up a permanent campus thrift store, commented that Sucherman played a big role in making the thrift store possible.
Sucherman’s colleagues in the Residential Education department commented on her departure.
“I only had the privilege of working with Bonny for a year, but in that time, she served as a true mentor and friend,” said Kate Slisz, RHD for Colman, Big Exec, Draheim and Brokaw Halls. “The intentionality and care that Bonny puts into her work and towards relationship and community building is something I will always remember, admire and strive to emulate.”
“Bonny took on more administrative work than her position called for and we couldn’t have survived COVID as a department without her leadership and expertise,” said Travis Loepfe, RHD for Ormsby and Hiett Halls. “While I am sad to see her go, I believe her positive impact to our department will provide lasting benefits to the future of Residential Education and Housing at Lawrence.”
As for me, I have worked with Sucherman closely over the past year. She was the second staff member I interviewed when I began writing for The Lawrentian and I’ve learned a lot from her. She is kind, helpful, professional and always centers students. She will be missed at Lawrence, but Lake Forest will be lucky to have her. I hope that her successor will love students as much as she does.