By Shilpa Darivemula
I went into the Residential Life Office, a little nervous about interviewing the new Resident Director of Fox Hall. It had been a while since I had done an interview, and I did not know what exactly to ask. I walked in and waiting for me was AJ Place, my interviewee. AJ’s quick smile put my nerves at ease and we began talking.
Born and raised in Albany, NY, Place knows this area well. “I went to the Albany Academy for Girls, actually. My mom works at Ellis Hospital as a Chaplain and my father works on a farm in Schaghticoke. He also owns an accounting firm in Albany.”
Place and his three siblings, who also all live in the area, has a large family to come back to in Schenectady and in Albany. So, for Pace, being at Union College is like coming back home.
Place graduated from the Academy and attended Quinnipiac University, initially intending to major in occupational therapy. Place immediately became a resident advisor and was extremely involved in many clubs and activities on campus. It was as a resident advisor that Place decided to change his life path.
“I had an amazing floor my junior year as a Resident Advisor. There was such a sense of community there. We would all be out in the hallways, talking until the early morning and just hanging out together.”
Such evidence of the positives of good floor community enhanced Place’s experience as an RA. Place decided that this community, this sense of family away from family, was what he wanted to pursue.
“I could not see myself really sitting behind a desk, working a 9 to 5 job as an occupational therapist. I like being a part of the ResLife team. And anyways, who doesn’t like being in college, right? College is supposed to be fun so why not stay a little longer?” Place said.
Place did end up “staying longer;” in fact, he graduated from Quinnipiac with a degree in Health Science and then continued his education at University of Vermont, earning a masters in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration.
His first job was at Castleton State College in Vermont for four years, where he worked as an Area Coordinator, or Residence Director of several dormitories.
Place later moved to Chapman University, in southern California. At Chapman, he worked as an Assistant Director. When he heard about the opening in Schenectady, at Union College, he took the offer excited to be back at home with his family.
“My adjustment process here has been easier thanks to the awesome people in the ResLife office and my wonderful Fox Hall Staff. The residents have been very kind too.”
When asked what he found different at Union, he said, “Actually, one thing I find different is the prevalence of Greek life on campus. That is something I am still getting used to.”
Place has set high expectations of his position as a Residence Director.
“Residence Directors are ultimately resources for students and as community builders as well.,” he said. “They are here to help students transition and to support them. Students are here to graduate to bigger and better things, and I feel like my job as an RD is to help each one individually succeed in accomplishing this.”
Place currently lives with his dog, Luca, which he nicknamed ‘Noodle,’ because “she is very wiggly and floppy.” Place is oftentimes stopped by residents who wish to pet or play with Noodle. According to Place, “Fox is the best!”
On any given weekend, you can find Place walking his dog, going for a run or watching a movie.