Southwestern Michigan College’s new Director of Student Housing Jeff Hooks graduated from MSU—Mississippi State University.
Like Michigan State, Mississippi State is a land-grant university.
The mission set forth in the 1862 Morrill Act was teaching agriculture, science, military science and engineering in response to the industrial revolution and in contrast to higher education’s traditional liberal arts focus.
The formal name of the Bulldogs’ home in Starkville is The Mississippi State University of Agriculture and Applied Science.
Hooks earned from MSU a 2011 master’s degree in public policy and administration and a 2008 bachelor’s degree in political science.
Hooks previously served as Area Coordinator for Longwood Managed Apartments from July 2015-December 2016 at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.
Longwood, where SMC President Dr. David Mathews taught mathematics, hosted the 2016 vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine.
Hooks served as Residence Hall Director for State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego from January 2013-July 2015.
He was Area Coordinator from July 2011-December 2012 at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
After military service near Tacoma at Fort Lewis, Wash., including deployment to Iraq, Hooks considered law enforcement, working a year as a corrections officer.
The Army veteran was a Signal Support Systems Specialist from July 2000-July 2004, then a Grenada County, Miss., Jail corrections officer from July 2004-July 2005.
“I joined the Army because it was unspoken tradition in my family. Every male has been in the military in some capacity, plus I wanted to graduate college without debt,” he said.
Hooks was MSU Residence Adviser from May 2007-May 2009, supervising more than 70 apartments for graduate, international and students with families, then MSU Residence Director from May 2009-June 2011, supervising two complexes totaling 300 apartments.
“When I was there, MSU was pretty big—25,000 or 26,000 students,” Hooks said. “I’ve lived mostly in small towns by personal preference. I don’t like big cities. I know a lot of Michigan people. Somebody I supervised at a previous institution works at Western Michigan University.”
“I’ve always wanted to work in a community-college setting,” he said. “When you work in housing, there are less options available because most community colleges don’t have housing. Statistically, you do better if you live on campus because you’re close to resources and you’re here 24/7, so it’s not a hassle to go to tutoring or to find somebody who can help you.”
After six positions in Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and New York, SMC’s housing impresses Hooks as “the nicest facilities I’ve seen. Maintenance staff keep them looking like brand-new rooms after eight years of use. Not every school replaces things on a regular basis. Some use stuff until it turns to dust before they replace it.”
“Everybody I’ve met is super-friendly. At Mississippi State, you had to take a bus to get from one end of campus to the other because it’s so spread-out. I like SMC’s walkable size. Residence halls right next to the SAC (Student Activity Center) is super-convenient,” Hooks said.
“Two things” attracted SMC to him, Hooks believes.
“With the RHMs (Residence Hall Managers Anggie Gabriel, William M. White Hall; Kaitlin Holbrook, Thomas F. Jerdon Hall; and Debbie Weil, Keith H. McKenzie Hall, where Hooks’ office is located), our personalities clicked. I have experience at different institutions in different states and have seen a little bit of everything. No two institutions handle issues the same. I’m open-minded to new ideas—whether from a staff member or a resident. As long as they’re good ideas, I don’t care where they come from.”
Oswego is near Syracuse across the state from New York City and “pretty similar to Dowagiac as far as what the town looks like. I’m used to snow because they get twice the snow we get here.”
Learning to live with people from vastly different life experiences is “good practice for life after college.”
“Students either had their own room their whole life or, if they shared it with siblings, they more than likely have the same mindset and like the same stuff,” he said.
Hooks enjoys reading, watching television and playing board games.
Settlers of Catan, which originated in Germany in 1995, is his favorite.