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HR Profile: Residential Life Job Keeps Her Young

By Sarah Brady
March 28, 2007

Ruth Abelmann Photo

Ruth Abelmann came to UNH almost 22 years ago. And while her career span is as old as the students she works with, Abelmann says she still feels like a student herself. With her enthusiasm and warmth, it’s quite clear she truly is still young in spirit.

Currently, as associate director of Residential Life, Abelmann works with other staff to determine the vision, direction and implementation of the programs and services offered to students in the residence halls. She also trains professional staff and supervises the 20 or so hall directors working throughout the residence halls.

"Our goal is to create communities where students live and learn about themselves and others as a result of being in our halls," said Abelmann.

One thing she is particularly excited about is the Living Learning Community being offered in Lord Hall to freshman students. The students involved also take a first-year inquiry class, which serves as a jump-start to UNH.

"It was great to design this with Mike Middleton," she said. "When you can help students bridge the gap between academic life and housing life they can really max out at the university."

Abelmann says that one of the most enjoyable aspects about the university is the colleagues she has been able to work with throughout the years.

"I feel lucky to work in a large department of highly dedicated staff who truly care about making a difference in students’ lives," said Abelmann. "We work as a team; we build off of each others energy and creativity which makes for a very motivating place to be. Things are never static and there is always room for improvement, a different angle or approach to make our outcomes turn out better. It's a dynamic place to work and on top of it all we have a lot of fun doing what we do."

Before coming to UNH, Abelmann attended St. Lawrence University where she worked as an RA. She went on to graduate school at the University of Vermont where she received her degree in student personnel services.

In 1984, Abelmann came to UNH and worked her way up from hall director to assistant director and finally to associate director of Residential Life. "I love the Northeast and I liked the direction the department was heading over 20 years ago when I was job searching," she recalls. "This department has a personalized approach to working with students that fits my style well.”

Abelmann is now running a monthly group where supervisors from all different areas can come together and talk about the challenges of the role. Abelmann says they look at real- life case studies and discuss many different difficulties of the job.

She also started a yoga class for students and faculty, which meets on Fridays at noon in Babcock Hall, after getting involved in yoga many years ago at the suggestion of a friend, who believed it would help relieve stress. Abelmann "fell in love with it," she says.

She began filling in for her instructor and then decided to get certified.

"Yoga helps a person to become peaceful, centered and balanced," she said. "I wanted to share this with others and introduce it to them free of charge. Health Education sponsors this class. It is always full and something I look forward to every Friday."

Abelmann, who lives in Durham, has two teenage children who go to the public schools. She believes that raising her children in a university town has really benefited them. "I love raising my kids in a university town and exposing them to the many issues and activities at UNH. They are always happy to eat in Holloway Commons if I don't feel like cooking dinner. It keeps you young working on a campus."

In her free time Abelmann likes to cross country ski, read, hike, walk, be outdoors and attend her kids many sporting events. "I have become a great spectator," she says.

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