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Apr 16, 2014

Dr. Warner's Roots in Residence Life

Dr. Mark Warner Feature Photo For almost 40 years, Dr. Mark Warner has been a member of the JMU community. He spent six years as a student and is coming up on 33 years as an employee. Throughout his career he has held a number of positions, the very first being an RA.

“Let me start at the very beginning. I was a freshman at JMU and got put in a suite of upperclassmen. All of the guys in the suite had gone to high school together and I was this little, scared-to-death freshman, and my RA took me under his wing,” he said. “Half way through the year he said ‘you need to be an RA’ and I said ‘I can’t, I don’t have what it takes.’ He convinced me otherwise and I applied to be an RA.”

Dr. Warner spent two years in White as an RA, then went on to become the Hall Director in Hanson during his senior year and both years of Graduate school, totaling six years spent in the village.

“In my second year of grad school I had gotten married, so Jennie lived in Hanson with me. So it was Jennie, me and 200 men,” he said. “Can you imagine your first year of marriage in a hall with that many other people, let alone college men?”

Luckily, Jennie was a JMU grad too so she felt right at home on campus.

The experience Dr. Warner gained in Residence Life as a student made him a perfect candidate for a job in the office and ultimately changed the course of his future career.

“My masters program was Psychology, so I was going to be a psychologist. At the time President Rose was the Director of Residence Life and offered me the Village Area Director job once I graduated, so I stayed at JMU,” he said.

Dr. Warner went on to become the Associate Director for Developmental Programs, Assistant to the Vice President for Administration and Finance, Executive Assistant to Dr. Carrier, then back to Administration and Finance.

After all that time in Administration, he decided to take on a completely new role next by becoming a full-time, tenured health sciences professor, and loved it, describing it as the most fun job he has had at JMU.

When President Rose took on the role of Acting President he asked Dr. Warner to be the Chief of Staff for one year. He agreed, with the stipulation that he could keep teaching one course a semester.

“President Rose then became the President and asked me to be the Vice President for Student Affairs. For me it was a struggle because I loved the classroom so much, but at that time the culture at Madison just wasn’t the close, friendly culture that I had grown up with here, so I thought that I could help change the culture by taking the VP job,” he said. “So obviously I became the VP, going on 15 years now, but I still teach one leadership class a semester.”

It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly creates and changes culture at a university but he has a few ideas about what works for JMU.

“My colleagues throughout the state ask me what we do to get our students to love JMU and to be so spirited. And I don’t know the real answer, but I know part of it. Part of the answer is two things that we do: Residence Life and Orientation, both of those really show students what our culture is and what it really means to be a student here, right when they come in the door,” he said.

Dr. Warner has also been a huge advocate for the “hold the door” and “leave change in the vending machine” mottos that have helped to mold a friendly and thoughtful growing student body.

Looking back now on his time in Residence Life, Dr. Warner offered some advice to students interested in working in Higher Education.

“I tell people now, if you want to go into Higher Education, the absolute best training around is Residence Life,” he said. “If you have a chance to be a Hall Director, you get a chance to be a counselor, administrator, programmer, supervisor, crisis manager, and a disciplinarian; you get exposed to it all. No doubt in my mind, there’s no better training than Residence Life.”

After achieving so much during his time here at JMU, we had to ask: what’s next?

“I’ll be in this job until I retire, and then I’ll teach one course a semester until I die. I’ll be that 80 year old guy in class and everyone will say ‘when is Warner getting out of here?’”

From being an RA to the VP of Student Affairs, Dr. Mark Warner’s love for JMU has shone through in all of the positions he has held at the university. We would even dare to say that he is a living embodiment of JMU’s Culture and Spirit, one that definitely isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

By Megan Martin (’11)








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