Cornell University invites inquiries, nominations and applications for an experienced, dynamic, and strategic leader to serve as the next Director of Residential Life.

About the University

Cornell University is an innovative Ivy League university with a land-grant mission, a world-class research institution known for the breadth and rigor of its curricula, and an academy dedicated to preparing young people to be well-educated and well-rounded citizens of the world. Cornell embraces traditional liberal arts education, practical applications of knowledge, and interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to research and teaching.

Cornell’s inclusive community of scholars, students, and staff imparts an uncommon sense of larger purpose and contributes creative ideas to further the university's mission of teaching, discovery, and engagement. Such ideals are woven into the very fiber of Cornell’s history, and have solidified the institution as a vanguard for academic excellence at the nexus of equality and opportunity.

Today, Cornell University consists of fifteen schools and colleges. Among the Ithaca campus, the Weill Cornell Medicine campuses in New York City and Qatar, and the new Cornell Tech campus in New York City, the university enrolls nearly 15,000 undergraduates and over 8,000 graduate and professional school students. With more than 1,000 student organizations, there is a community for every interest. There are also 37 Division I athletic teams, dozens of intramural, outdoor education, and recreation programs; 60 recognized fraternities and sororities; 28 affiliated faith communities; and thousands of outreach and volunteer opportunities. Students also have the opportunity to study abroad in over 87 countries, preparing them for life in a global community.

About the Division 

The division of Student & Campus Life inspires growth in all Cornell students on their journey of individual and academic development. The division is comprised of leading student affairs experts who support the campus on pressing student life matters including public service, health, wellness, social justice, residential living, food services, sports, recreation, career services, and student activities and organizations including sorority and fraternity life. The nearly 4,000 staff and student employees who make up SCL embrace the opportunity to represent the division and strive for excellence as they shape the Cornell student experience, one interaction at a time.

About the Position

Reporting to the Executive Director of Housing and Residential Life on the Ithaca campus, the Director of Residential Life leads the unit and directs the work of staff to accomplish an exceptional, integrated living/learning experience for undergraduates in Cornell's North and South Campus communities. The position is a lead visionary for the overall residential experience while serving as an advocate for academic inquiry and intellectual development, a proponent of student development theory, and a champion of diversity and inclusion.

The new Director of Residential Life will join the organization at an exciting time and plays an integral role in the completion of the organizational and programmatic vision as the North Campus Residential Expansion that will add 2000 beds (anticipated completion fall 2022.) This includes redeveloping a first-year program and the full development of a community-building plan for second year students. The position will have the opportunity to represent the Division of Student & Campus Life in the mission to inspire transformation for these communities

The Director actively manages a budget of $3.4 million and oversees a department of 21 professional staff. This includes four assistant directors who share supervision of 15 residence hall directors and 1 Area Coordinator supporting both traditional residence halls and themed program houses. In addition, this position supervises an administrative associate. Housing and Residential Life oversees approximately 150 students serving as resident advisors and student staff assistants in the halls.  

Along with the Director of Housing and the Director of Graduate, Cooperative and Off Campus Living, the Director is a member of the departmental leadership team and works with the Executive Director to identify and implement departmental priorities to build a comprehensive Housing and Residential life program and create a seamless experience that responds to student needs.

The Director of Residential Life is a key member of the division of Student & Campus Life working together with colleagues on the leadership team to further the educational mission of Cornell while preparing students to become culturally competent, contributing community members. The Director is ultimately responsible for leading the development of a welcoming, safe, and comfortable residential experience designed to educate, challenge, and develop students. The Director brings broad vision and a collaborative approach to undertaking work toward priorities.  This includes close collaboration with the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the faculty run residential program on West Campus and the Faculty in Residence program on North Campus. Other key partnerships within Student & Campus Life and across campus include; The Dean of Students, New Student Programs, Sorority and Fraternity Life, Conference & Event Services, Athletic Sports Camps, Cornell University Police Department, Cornell Health, Public Service Center, and Engaged Cornell.

The Successful Candidate

Cornell seeks candidates for this role who are motivated by working in a highly student-centered environment where a deep and abiding care for students and their development is a paramount value. The Director is expected to be a university champion and thought leader regarding the power of community settings to enhance students’ lives. 

Success in the role will come from strong leadership, both in creating vision and the ability to organize others through implementation. The Director should have experience with strategic planning and the implementation of new initiatives and have demonstrated short- and long-term tactical planning skills, as well as the ability to manage multiple high stake projects simultaneously. Initiative, creativity, enthusiasm and ability to motivate staff, and build an effective team are essential for this position. The candidate must have demonstrated management experience with budget oversight.  Strong problem solving and reasoning skills; flexibility, organizational and planning skills; and analytical skills are required.

The candidate must demonstrate a student-centered approach to interacting with and supporting residential students, including student governing bodies.  The candidate must also have demonstrated knowledge and experience working collaboratively with faculty and student affairs staff in support of student learning outcomes and development; experience developing programs in a residential setting; and excellent program assessment skills.



The successful candidate should possess a minimum of 10 years of relevant professional experience in a comprehensive on-campus residence life operation or other student affairs role with at least 4 years as a senior leader or equivalent education/experience on a residential campus. A Masters in higher education, human development/services or a related field is required.  The following specialized skills are required: 

  • Proven ability as a strong supervisor who is skilled in building a sense of team, maintaining open lines of communication, offering relevant professional development opportunities to stay current in the field;
  • Evidence of creativity and innovation in problem solving and strategy implementation;
  • Strong organizational and project management skills, and ability to multi-task in a fast-paced, high-volume environment;
  • Demonstrated commitment to equity and inclusion in both leadership and policy setting;
  • Exceptional oral and written communication skills and the ability to communicate complex issues with clarity;
  • Enthusiasm for and demonstrated commitment to supporting a student body that is broadly diverse with regard to gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion among other factors;
  • Proven success in persuading others, adapting communication to various audiences, and facilitating presentations;
  • Candidate should demonstrate a level of political savvy needed to be successful with a decentralized institution;
  • Solid experience with building and maintaining both broad and deep relationships with key stakeholders that support the health and well-being of students;
  • Experience working effectively with student governance groups and significant experience working collaboratively and successfully with faculty;
  • Knowledge and appreciation for the unique benefits of themed program houses;
  • Knowledge and advocacy of student development theory, restorative justice, social justice, Title IX, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the standards of due process and student affairs trends in higher education.


How to Apply

Interested candidates should send, as two separate documents, a resume and a letter of application that relates skills, abilities, knowledge, and professional experiences to the stated qualifications for the position and notable achievements. The packet should be sent to The email subject line should be DRLCU.

Confidential inquiries may be made by contacting Megan Spelman by email to or by telephone at 585-366-4329.

For full consideration, all materials should be received by December 8th, 2020. The process will continue until the position is filled.

Diversity and Inclusion are a part of Cornell University’s heritage. We are a recognized employer and educator valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities. We also recognize a lawful preference in employment practices for Native Americans living on or near Indian reservations. Cornell University is an innovative Ivy League university and a great place to work. Our inclusive community of scholars, students, and staff impart an uncommon sense of larger purpose, and contribute creative ideas to further the university's mission of teaching, discovery, and engagement.

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