In the fall of 1972, Bonnie Burchett’s brother dropped her off in front of ETSU’s Dossett Hall, which was a female residence hall at the time.
Burchett decided to transfer to ETSU after two years at Hiwassee Junior College in Madisonville, Tennessee, where she played basketball and worked as a resident advisor.
She had never stepped foot on ETSU’s campus, but being from southwest Virginia, she said it immediately felt like home.
During her remaining two years of undergrad, Burchett worked as an RA before becoming a resident director at Stone Hall, but it was her experience at Hiwassee that gave her her start in housing and residence life.
“I liked working with students and helping them,” Burchett said. “An upperclassmen helped me when I was a freshman and a faculty advisor I had at Hiwassee directed me toward becoming an RA.”
In 1977, Burchett applied for and was hired on to be the ETSU Coordinator for Residence Life, which was a newly created position.
At that time, she merged the Women’s Inter-Dorm Council and the Men’s Residence Hall Association to form what students know today as the Residence Hall Association.
Over the years, she earned her master’s in counseling, doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis and made her way up the ranks to the position she has today as ETSU Director of Housing and Residence Life.
Burchett has seen the university go through many changes during her 44 years at ETSU. The D.P. Culp University Center, Mini Dome, Buccaneer Ridge Apartments and several other residence halls have opened along with the rise and fall and return of Buccaneer football.
Although things have physically changed, Burchett believes that young adults, the college experience and what college students go through has stayed the same.
“I don’t know if students have changed a whole lot,” she said. “Face to face communication with students has always been a problem. It used to be that students would leave each other Post-it notes to address issues, and now it’s text messages.”
Burchett added that college is a time in a young adult’s life where they mature and grow, and that doesn’t change with time. College students in 2016 and the college students in the past have the same personal struggles as well.
“They may handle [problems] a little differently,” Burchett said, “but those things never change.”
Housing in general, however, has evolved since the 1970s. Students living on campus have the choice of living in a co-ed residence hall, do not have a curfew and the term “dorm” is practically obsolete.
“Dorms are for sleeping and eating whereas residence halls are a place of learning,” Burchett said.
One way the residence halls promote learning is through their living learning communities, where students in the same major or a similar major live and learn together in a specific residence hall.
“Our part in student success is just providing them a room that is in good shape, go to the hospital with them if they’re sick or refer them to academic support or counseling,” Burchett said. “Whatever they need, we have staff trained as first responders.”
Overall, Burchett is proud of the entire housing staff’s efforts in providing academic and emotional support for students, and she hopes that campus housing continues to grow.
“We always try to find new ways that we can partner with students and parents and other areas of campus to help ensure that their son or daughter will be successful,” Burchett said.