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April 8, 2009

Masur Hall director more than just an event coordinator

William Davis, director of Masur Hall, recently planned a St. Patrick’s Day party for his residence hall students and a few guests.

Figuring the event would last a couple hours and bring about 60 enthusiastic participants, he baked a large green and white-iced cake, decorated the hall lobby with leprechauns and created trivia sheets filled with interesting St. Patrick facts for the students.

The party soon swelled to about 100 guests, many who stayed until 11 p.m. – an indication of how inviting the environment has become at Masur Hall since Davis accepted the position.

Davis, a self-described people person, is an instinctual giver whose greatest pleasure is seeing students gather for fun and develop lifelong friendships. Davis doesn’t see his position as a job, but an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the students he oversees.

“My biggest thing is, I listen. Sometimes that’s all it takes,” he said.

“I want all my residents to have the best experience they can while living on campus,” Davis continued. “If I can answer a question, or even direct students to needed services, I am more than happy to do so. I by no means have all the answers to their questions, but I can find someone else who does.”

If Davis imparts an empathetic air of understanding to his students, it might stem from his own initially lonely experience arriving at Masur Hall as a freshman in the fall of 2000, far from his hometown of Sheridan, Wyo.

Davis eventually found on-campus student employment, and his infectious personality and work ethic warmed people across the campus to him.

“He is a person who cares for everybody, especially his residents in Masur Hall,” said sophomore resident, Chris Lebel, 22, of Downsville. “He treats us like family instead of regular residents ... Mr. Davis is a great guy.”

Davis earned a bachelors degree from ULM in the summer of 2004, and graduated in December 2007 with a master’s degree in history. Currently, he is earning an additional master’s degree in Educational Instructional Technology and is a part-time teacher at Delta Community College, in addition to his duties as hall director.

But Davis is more than just an event coordinator.

His party planning will take a conscientious turn on April 22, when Masur Hall hosts an Earth Day Event. Davis has already contacted the Environmental Protection Agency and other government sources for posters and information, such as details about the life cycle of a cell phone.

Davis said he is “planting seeds” to get the students thinking outside their own world a little.

Earlier in the semester, Davis planned a Financial Aid Awareness Event, aimed at helping more than 60 young students realize their financial options for continuing their education.

When he’s not in class or coordinating the next social gathering, Davis is clearly thinking of ways to enhance the appearance of the circa 1960 lobby of Masur Hall.

“When I first got here, it had no character. It was just a room for the occasional meeting,” he said. “For people to want to hang out, you have to make it inviting.”

Décor chosen by Davis splashes the lobby with bursts of brightness and a collage of Louisiana scenes fills an entire bulletin board, while colorful kites soars above the lighting fixtures along the edge of the wall near the entrance.

Two posters reflect a slightly more somber, though humorous, note as they gently remind students that “due dates are closer than they appear” and “even Einstein asked questions.”

Davis plays a sort of surrogate parent to the roughly 180 students at Masur Hall and it’s a role he clearly relishes. But his philosophy is perhaps best summed up in a handwritten statement just off the main lobby area.

The statement, posted to a map of the world with pushpins leading directly to northeast Louisiana, reads: “You are here … it would not be the same without you!”

Next to it, another statement reads: “We thank you for being part of our family.”

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