“What does a hall director do?”
Jacob Gerding, the new director of Wengatz Hall, is asked this question a lot.
He knows that service is an integral part of the job. Gerding wants students to feel known, and he believes one of the best ways he can do that is by supporting them through difficult times.
“There’s a lot of different things that happen throughout the year (and) it’s always helpful to have another person walking alongside you,” Gerding said.
Before becoming hall director, Gerding was an undergrad at Evangel University, where he served as a resident assistant. He graduated from Taylor’s Master of Arts in Higher Education (MAHE) in 2020.
While at Taylor, Gerding lived in Wengatz Hall. His familiarity with the dorm has made the transition to hall director somewhat normal for him.
Gerding’s favorite part of the job is building relationships with students.
“I hope students will know that I am fully here, all in, 100 percent ready to dive into a relationship. Not just in Wengatz, but also across campus,” Gerding said.
His advice to freshmen moving into Wengatz is to find a part of their community to invest in.
“If students can find space to dig deep and invest in where they’re at, I think that will only enrich their (experiences) here,” Gerding said. “It will help them in the long-term, too.”
Gerding isn’t the only new hall director who is passionate about his community.
Josiah Peterson (‘19), hall director of Samuel Morris Hall, believes the first step in serving his community is learning the names of others.
“(Service) is knowing when I see them outside of the dorm … that they’re guys that live in Morris. And hopefully knowing one or two things about them, just to show care that way, and particularly paying attention to them,” Peterson said. “That’s probably the way I’d serve them the most, (to) have an eye for them.”
Peterson started his career at Taylor as an undergraduate student. It was his classmates who inspired him to take up his now favorite pastime — reading. He was never interested in reading books for fun until his freshman year of college, when he realized that his closest friends were all bookworms.
Reading helped him discover a love of learning which continued after his college years. Peterson joined the MAHE program and became the hall director for Swallow Robin Hall. After graduating from the MAHE program, he was hired as the hall director for Samuel Morris Hall.
He explained how the dorm’s namesake inspires a culture of service among its residents. Samuel Morris Hall was named after a Liberian student with a powerful faith, Prince Kaboo, who came to Taylor in 1891. He tragically lost his life two years later.
“Sammy Morris influences a lot at Taylor. There’s a particular sense of ‘he’s our guy,’” Peterson said. “Outside of the funny culture or the shenanigans, this is a place where we are trying to serve one another.”
Peterson encourages students who are new to Samuel Morris to make friends by starting simple.
“Open your door to other people,” Peterson said. “(Others) can see you and you can see them to have small interactions.”
While dorms at Taylor are typically home for college students, some younger residents have moved into Bergwall Hall this year.
The patter of feet running through the lobby and screams of “Tag!” have filled the air since new hall director Matthew Beck arrived with his wife, four children and dog.
“I’ll speak for the whole family (that) this has been a very positive move (for) us,” Beck said. “When we first heard about Bergwall, we heard about the back deck, and the woods and all these features were very exciting, especially to the kids.”
Beck went to nearby Indiana Wesleyan University for undergrad, where he became heavily involved in residence life.
Julia Hurlow, interim dean of residence life, was a fellow IWU student and good friend of Beck.
“I reached out to (Hurlow) during a season of discernment … (I) said, ‘Hey, if anything opens up for me at Taylor, let me know,’” Beck said.
Hurlow later offered him the position at Bergwall and he accepted.
Beck has also previously served as a youth pastor in Marion, an experience that has shaped how he serves as hall director. He says that both Taylor and his ministry share the desire to develop community among its students.
Beck’s hope for incoming freshmen is that they are unafraid to take social risks and join Taylor’s intentional community.
“College is a little like cliff-jumping,” Beck said. “I am afraid of heights, but the times I’ve gone to jump off cliffs with friends, it is exhilarating.”
So, what does a hall director do? While each director has a different way of looking at it, one thing they all have in common is their loving service to the Taylor community. Beyond all the personnel assistant meetings, event planning and Dining Commons dinners, a hall director’s job is simple: to serve students well.