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Meet Pamela McDowell: Associate Dean of Student Life and Director of Residence Life

Every Ole knows Pamela McDowell. She’s responsible for where you live, and with room draw last weekend, she’s probably on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Whether you love your room or are bummed with your draw number, it’s worth it to get to know the lady behind the action.

Pamela McDowell is a Dean of Student Life and the Director Residence Life. “A lot of people assume I have something to say about parking – I don’t,” says McDowell. Instead, she oversees all aspects of housing and coordinates residence life and is in charge of overseeing the Code of Conduct. That’s a lot for one lady to handle. But McDowell has been here awhile, and certainly knows what she’s doing. A 1991 graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, McDowell had always intended to go into banking. Instead, she took a job at Olaf and has never left. 

“How people live on campus, and how they are supported on campus go hand-in-hand,” says McDowell, in reference to her overlapping jobs within Residence Life and the Dean of Students offices. “It’s great to work at a place where students put value on their education as well as their experience.” Over the years, her work has put her in contact with a large variety of students, all of which, she says, astound her.

When it comes to room draw itself, McDowell can only advocate patience. “Don’t over plan,” she says. “Every option a student has is dependent on what the students before them opted.” And, just to clear things up for the future: “People believe that the person with the best number needs to represent the group – that’s not true.” By simply understanding the process, McDowell says that people will be more understanding, and hopefully more appreciative of the hard work the Res Life staff puts into the process.

Away from Olaf, McDowell loves taking her daughters to the zoo and the park. “I love playing with them,” she says. And when asked about her most secret desire, McDowell boldly states that “I want to go to culinary school someday. Not for a degree, but maybe some month-long intensive course.”

For now, though, McDowell is happy to be here with the students that make her job so special. Her advice for Oles: “Enjoy your time. Try a lot of things. Different orgs, study abroad, volunteer groups. Make balance a big component of your life and have fun every day.” 

Jessica is a senior at St. Olaf College majoring in English with concentrations in media studies and Middle Eastern studies. As one of the Campus Correspondents for Her Campus St. Olaf, she enjoys writing and editing news stories, and encouraging younger Oles to express their skills and talents through writing. She also is an editor for the school's student newspaper, The Manitou Messenger, and a writer for the college's marketing and communications office. In her (limited) free time, she enjoys eating pita and hummus from the Cage, curling up in a Buntrock window seat with a good book, and checking things off her senior bucket list.
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