New Paltz inspires alumnus to study abroad, work in higher ed

kyle_southafrica Connect Aug2014For Kyle Fasset ’12, it was a natural step from designing theater productions at SUNY New Paltz to his current position as a residence hall coordinator at the University of Delaware, where he oversees four residential buildings, 12 staff members, and 400 students.

“We’re always looking for new ways to sell the new, big residence hall, or sell the residential experience to students,” says Fassett. “In theater, it’s all about that. It’s conveying messages to your audience. … And New Paltz is where I learned all of that.”

For example, Fassett says research indicates that students thrive better in corridor-style residence halls rather than suites, due to the inevitable social interaction that comes with the former. Being able to look to the past in order to inform the present, Fassett says, is very similar to designing a historically accurate theater production.

“A big part of being a theater designer is branding yourself as an artist, being able to articulate the value behind the designs, the history and the philosophy,” says Fassett. “As I’m helping plan new residence halls, looking at the residential environment, looking at history, and seeing what works well – being able to do that research has really helped me in the field.”

Originally from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Fassett was a student in the Honors Program at SUNY New Paltz, where he majored in theater design and minored in communication. He was heavily involved in several co-curricular activities, working as an orientation leader, an administrative program assistant for the Office of Student Development, and a member of the Residence Hall Student Association, National Residence Hall Honorary, Ta-Da, and the Alpha Psi Omega National Theatre Honor Society.

Rather than continue his theater studies, Fassett decided to make student affairs his career, and earned his master’s degree in college student personnel at Bowling Green University in Ohio. In the summer between his first and second years, Fassett seized an opportunity to spend a summer abroad at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in Cape Town, South Africa, where he worked in the Leadership and Responsibility Office (his passion for international education was sparked after participating in SUNY New Paltz’s study abroad theater seminar in London, he says).

“We did a lot of community service projects with the students, the elderly, children, the gamut of people there,” says Fassett. “I also taught leadership from a westernized perspective, as well as focusing a lot on power, oppression, and diversity.”

Fassett’s trip to Cape Town happened to coincide with Mandela Week, which takes place in recognition of former South African President Nelson Mandela during his birthday week each July.

“There was this huge push to talk about apartheid, and bring that to the table,” says Fassett. “It’s still very much present in their culture, and they try to use it as a learning opportunity on how to use your power or your leadership in good ways. These students are going to be the leaders of the future.”

Fassett says he still keeps in touch with his SUNY New Paltz Honors Program thesis advisors, theater professor Andrea Varga and registrar Bernadette Morris ’95 (Communication Studies), who he considers his mentors. He also credits Vice President of Student Affairs David Rooney, who he says “gave me the guidance into student affairs and higher education, helped me examine some of the different master’s programs out there, and also helped me navigate my job search this past year.”

“I really enjoyed my time at New Paltz,” says Fassett. “I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I’m still in touch with a lot of people from my graduating class and see them regularly. New Paltz helps you to form those lifelong bonds and memories.”