A chat with the new director of campus life

Richard Kopp, Rider’s new director of campus life, stands in front of the Rider Rock showing excitement to start in his new position.

The Rider News spoke with Richard Kopp, director of campus life, about his new position.

TRN: What does your job entail?

Richard Kopp: As the director of campus life, I am charged with providing leadership and strategic direction for the campus life unit. I supervise and manage the departments of campus activities, Greek life and recreational programs, including co-curricular, wellness, recreational, and campus traditions activities, university pub operations and commuter services. I also advise the Student Government Association (SGA) and oversee student organizations.

TRN: Where have you worked previously?

RK: I have over 14 years of student-alumni engagement experience and innovative leadership at small and large, private and public higher education institutions. I began my higher education career at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in 2000. There, I established the first-ever Resident Assistant program on campus, and was responsible for the programming, management, and safety of six residence halls and over 200 residents on the private Philadelphia campus. In addition, I coordinated all diverse campus-wide student activities and programs, oversaw handbook policy development, managed the student conduct process, advised student organizations, created and expanded the intramural sports and recreation program, and enhanced the community service program.

As the director of student life from 2004 to 2007, I was responsible for the areas of student activities, recreation, orientation, graduation, residence life, and campus safety and security. In this role, I developed a comprehensive mission, vision, and strategic plan for the department and supervised a team of nine professionals. I held a student-centered approach, while maintaining oversight of a $250,000 budget, developing and implementing policy, managing crisis situations, and hiring, training and supervising staff. I also worked directly with area schools, non-profits and community partners to develop our students into global-minded citizens.

From 2007 to 2014, I worked in various roles (alumni relations, campus activities, student leadership) at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where I developed student-alumni events that helped to foster a lifelong connection between alumni and the university. I created Drexel’s new Office of Student Leadership Development & Traditions in 2012, and serving as the director, I re-branded the student leadership program (CEO LEAD) to serve the needs of all types of students: undergraduate, graduate, online, transfer and adult-learners.

Under my direction, the CEO LEAD program attained record numbers in workshops offered, attendance and certificates earned since it began in 1999. It was recently selected as a 2014 Top 10 Winner (ranking seventh of 151 peer institutions, educational institutions category) for the “Leadership 500 Excellence Awards” presented by HR.com, which annually recognizes the top 500 leadership organizations and their strategies and solutions. As a result, CEO LEAD was featured in an article in the July 2014 issue of Leadership Excellence Essentials magazine, distributed to over 250,000 business professionals. In addition, I led a team of more than 20 campus partners that developed and launched a successful Drexel Senior Experience (DSE) program in 2010 and recently sponsored 38 events attended by 3,086 graduating seniors in 2013.

TRN: Where is your educational background?

RK: I have a master of science degree in higher education from Drexel University in Philadelphia and a bachelor of science degree in restaurant management from The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill

College. In addition, I am a certified facilitator of the MBTI instrument, Habitudes, and The Student Leadership Challenge.

TRN: What special qualities do you bring to the job?

RK: I am principally passionate about using my expertise in student activities and programming, student-alumni engagement, leadership development, recreation, traditions and supervision to create a campus environment at Rider that promotes student success and ensures sustainable program growth. I am a resourceful relationship builder, having assembled a vast network of students, professionals, alumni and community partners to achieve common goals through a collaborative, team-oriented approach and interpersonal leadership style. Furthermore, I am dedicated to creating a campus environment at Rider that challenges, supports and retains students, and eventually alumni, in meeting their academic, personal and professional goals.

TRN: What do you hope to accomplish at Rider?

RK: I am fortunate to be joining an amazing team of dedicated and talented campus life professionals. I am eager to work closely with them and capitalize on our team’s individual and collective strengths, as well as to forge new and hone existing partnerships with key campus departments, student leaders, alumni and stakeholders. I pledge to serve the Rider campus community with a student-centered approach and act as an advocate, champion, and resource to the entire student body. My preliminary goals are to: 1) complement and enhance weekend programming, 2) assess and increase commuter and alumni engagement, 3) streamline and update administrative procedures, 4) boost school spirit and campus pride, and 5) bridge the programming between the Lawrenceville and Westminster campuses.

TRN: What do you like best about Rider?

RK: Thus far, I have been very impressed by the caliber of students at Rider. The student leaders that I have met and worked with closely on the SGA Executive Board, Student Senate, Finance Board and Student Entertainment Council have been phenomenal and extremely professional. I also love the smaller campus “family vibe” that exists at Rider among the students, faculty and staff.

TRN: What aspects of your job are you most excited about?

RK: I am thrilled and grateful to be working with such an all-star team in campus life. Rider is truly lucky to have such talented administrators serving the co-curricular needs of its students. I’m excited to work with them creatively to continue to enhance and improve existing programs and services, as well as to create and build new activities that will further engage students outside the classroom and complement their learning from our esteemed faculty members.

TRN: How can you make campus life more relevant to commuting students?

RK: I’m eager to get to know the commuters more personally through one-on-one meetings, focus groups, and surveys to assess their needs and wants and create an environment that will be more engaging and relevant to them. Upon further research and with the advisement and support of the ACS, we can determine collaboratively if there is a need for alternative or additional programming options, adjusted earlier start times of the programs, or something else altogether.

TRN: What ways can you bring new energy to campus life?

RK: My goal is to work collaboratively with campus partners and stakeholders on shared goals in order to maximize our potential and increase our accomplishments, working smarter, not harder. I am intrinsically motivated and naturally enthusiastic, maintaining a positive, can-do attitude in all my efforts. I pledge to bleed “cranberry and white” and work towards instilling a greater sense of campus pride, school spirit, and shared camaraderie for all. In my previous role at Drexel, I helped to resurrect and successfully implement the return of two long-lost traditions (Homecoming and the Fight Song) to instill and foster campus-wide spirit and pride. I will seek similar opportunities to invigorate the campus here at Rider, while also working towards instituting weekly “Spirit Days” on campus where we can all celebrate our shared identity as a Bronc by wearing school colors or Rider apparel to show our collective support.

TRN: What ideas do you have to get students to stay on campus on weekends?

RK: In my short three weeks on the job, I have seen a plethora of activities taking place on campus during the week and also on weekends. From the Kathy Wakile book signing, R Factor and recreational sports tournaments one weekend, to the Pub theme nights, Midnight MAACness, and Greek life events the next, there is already a lot of activity happening and a vibrant buzz about campus on the weekends. Much of the credit goes to the hard work and dedication of the campus life team (Nick Barbati, Dianna Clauss, Amanda Eisele, Tara Fuller, Andrew LoBrace, Vickie McLaughlin, Michael Silverman, and Paul Vizzio) and our partners for filling the calendar with diverse events for all students.

If students aren’t staying on campus now, it certainly can’t be for a lack of programs being offered – there seems to be so much happening already and something for every type of student. I believe that my role in the coming months will be to assess our existing programs and gather input and ideas from our students, both active and uninvolved, to gain a better sense of the direction we want to head in moving forward to address any gaps we might be missing.

The main focus of the campus life staff is to connect students to the Rider community and provide engagement opportunities that will create meaningful memories and lasting relationships – this is our ultimate goal and mission. Our staff is always open to new ideas and suggestions, and we welcome student input. If you have feedback or recommendations, please stop by anytime to speak with a member of our team in the BLC Student Affairs Suite – we look forward to hearing from you and working together to engage the entire campus community year round.

– Eva Truncellito

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