By: Rediet Worku
There was a soothing quality to the atmosphere inside of the apartment, like the scent of freesia— soft and pleasant— when I visited Rachelle Munsey (A18) to speak about her work on a Saturday afternoon. It was after seeing the impact that Senior Residents had on students that Munsey decided to become a Senior Resident herself.
“In my junior and senior year, I received invaluable support and sincere encouragement from two senior residents,” she says. “It is my hope to follow in their example with a kettle on the stove and a kind ear ready to truly listen to anyone who drops by.”
For Munsey, working with students is a passion.
“Before I came to the College, I had the privilege to teach at a small private school for a few years. I taught everything from pre-algebra, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, great books, writing, to even ballroom dancing. I was thankful for the ability to tailor my classes to the students and reveled in the fact that my great books class was discussion-based. Regardless of some individuals advising me that my students wouldn’t be able to grapple with the Great Books, we went ahead and read many of the ancient texts. It was thrilling to see what those eighth and ninth graders could handle. Seeing, them ask the questions like ‘What is the significance of each instance of Homer’s invocation of the Muses in the Iliad?’ or ‘What value do we find in a dialogue ending in aporia?’ and rigorously pursue those questions, was remarkable,” she recalls while sipping her tea. During her summers while attending the College, Munsey taught students online from across the country and continues to teach classes today when not on duty as a senior resident.
At St. John’s, Munsey found herself enthusiastically pursuing subjects that her younger self would laugh at. It was here at St. John’s that Munsey overturned the ideology that she had to put herself in a box.
“As one who preferred literature in high school, I never would’ve imagined myself presenting a four-page proposition from Apollonius’ Conics from memory, or filling five chalkboards with the intricacies of Maxwell’s differential equations for describing classical electromagnetism, and what’s more, I would’ve never imagined myself truly championed by my tutors and peers in these new realms of study and very much in my element.”
The more she read, the more she realized that partaking in the Program is an essential introduction to the never-ending pursuit of learning how to listen and ask questions of individuals, texts and the world around her.
“My time at the College taught me that human thinking has beautiful vitality, and when supposed boundaries between domains of studies are dissolved, a real potency to illuminate truth is fostered in the community discussing around a table,” she says.
After having graduated, Munsey decided to stay at the College and become a Senior Resident. Munsey describes her work as “rewarding”.
“All the Senior Residents work closely with Public Safety as representatives of the Assistant Dean’s Office. We take turns carrying an on-call phone and assist with any emergencies that may arise. Besides that, we each have individual responsibilities within the community. Brigitte takes care of the campus dog, Arcadia; Derek organizes off-campus outings, such as museum trips, theater showings, and trips to local sports events; Jonathan works to support our community of international students; T.J. organizes outdoor ventures; and I plan on-campus events for the Assistant Dean’s Office such as the Annual Holiday Party, the International Student Potluck, or Senior Class Day,” she says.
All around campus, there are many posters with the names of the Senior Residents – “There is a reason they put our faces up,” Munsey adds. “We want to be recognizable and easily accessible. You will find us on the intramural sports teams or in extracurricular study groups… even preforming in the polity’s concerts.” Furthermore, students are encouraged to invite the Senior Residents to lunch in the dining hall and discuss life within and beyond the polity.
“We want you, as a whole person, to thrive,” she says.