Getting to Know Edwin Hamada: Assistant Vice President for the Residential Experience

By Shannon Zander

Note: The majority of this interview conducted in early July 2020 with the exception of the two questions on COVID-19 which were added in early September.

 Welcome to Edwin Hamada, who joined Colorado College as our new assistant vice president for the Residential Experience as of September 1. For the month of September, Hamada will be working alongside John Lauer, associate vice president for Student Life, until Lauer’s retirement on October 1. This interview provides a chance to learn about Hamada — from how he sees COVID shaping the residential experience to why he’d choose spaghetti squash if he could only eat one food for the rest of his life.

What is the main way your position will impact students at Colorado College?
As we all know, the majority of students live on campus or in college-owned property.  The on-campus residential experience is a key component of the life of a Colorado College student.  The teams in Campus Safety/Emergency Management, Residential Experience (formerly Residential Life), Housing Operations, Conferences, and Student Life Maintenance and Project Management are a solid group as I discovered during the interview process.  My job is to support the team in continuing their good work and see where I can contribute.  I have a lot of experience and have a few ideas formulated but learning the culture at CC and then building collaborative relationships will my initial focus.

What is your professional and educational background before CC?

  • I have worked in housing at the following schools: University of San Francisco, University of California – Los Angeles, Western Illinois University, San Jose State University, University of California-Irvine, University of Washington, and Washington State University.
  • I received my BA in Psychology at USF, my MS in College Student Personnel at WIU (taking classes from Nancy Evans and Dea Forney for Student Development theory fans), and my PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Washington.

Why do you think you are a good fit for the job?
This might sound silly but there was a scene in an older movie called “Crazy, Stupid, Love” (starring Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling) where the main character is getting a style makeover and discovers he is buying shirts that are too big for him.  When I think of my start at a small liberal arts school and how I love getting to know students and faculty/staff, my professional journey at larger public schools made it more difficult to get to know people.  CC’s culture of student engagement and collaboration fits my leadership style and feels like a good fit!

What influenced you to get into this field and profession?
As with many seasoned student affairs professionals, you sort of fall into the profession.  As a resident assistant and assistant hall director at USF, I loved working with students and was told I could get my master’s degree while continuing to work in the halls.  That was the start of a magical journey! While there have been challenges along the way, I have benefited from the support of many and look for opportunities to do the same for others as that is what makes being a student affairs professional worth the time and effort – investing in others.

What challenges does COVID pose to the usual” residential experience?
The concept of how we develop community and interact and get to know each other requires a major paradigm shift.  For first-year students, how they envisioned life at CC when they submitted their admission application changed significantly during their senior year.  Likewise, returning students need to alter their habits from prior years. The residential experience at CC is a multiyear commitment so we need to think about community development as an ongoing process that occurs over the arch of the student’s tenure. Students will find ways to safely interact, form strong bonds with their peers, and adapt their behavior when needed. We are all committed to providing a meaningful residential experience and have planned for months how to safely deliver that experience.

What can be done to mitigate these challenges?
An open mind and thinking creatively are characteristics of CC students.  Following the enhanced social distancing protocols adds a little challenge to community development and getting to know your peers but does not prevent it.  You just need to rethink your strategy.

I have led numerous team-building activities where a set of rules are outlined and a bag of random items are placed in front of the group, which is told it must be incorporated in the end product.  Maybe it is a “design your ideal residence hall” or “come up with a skit that highlights your floor community using these random items.”  Each group is able to successfully reach the goal and their end product varies, despite being given the same items and guidelines.  COVID and the enhanced social distancing guidelines necessitates a different way of thinking about achieving the goal of community and getting to know your peers. And it will look different for each person but is achievable as we are all committed to this goal.

What do you like about CC so far?
The people are what makes any situation special.  The students, faculty, and staff I have met during the interview did an excellent job of articulating how special Colorado College is for everyone. It was easy to see myself as part of the CC community. While I have yet to physically visit the campus and community, the virtual tour and pictures reinforce the natural beauty everyone was talking about during the interview.  I am excited to move to a location with so many wonderful places to explore the outdoors.

What would we most likely find you doing on the weekend?

  • Walking the dogs with my wife. We have a 14-year-old Chihuahua and a 10-year-old Husky/Lab mix.
  • Working on cars…I’m a gearhead and have two older sports cars that require a lot of maintenance.

What’s an accomplishment you’re particularly proud of?
I have worked with some excellent teams in my career.  Being the competitive person I am, my goal is to be the best supervisor or leader and set the bar high for any supervisors my team will have in the future or experienced in the past.  It always makes me proud when individuals on my teams tell me I was their best supervisor or leader.

What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute your success to, and why?
Individualization and Context are my top two StrengthFinder themes. I find the unique qualities in each person and want to know their background (for context).  This makes me a good listener.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?
As a kid, I must have been grumping at my mom about a task she asked me to do.  She essentially told me, “You can do it with a smile on your face or with an unhappy face but you will have to do it, so you might as well be happy.” That is probably the reason I am an optimist even under the direst of circumstances.

If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be?
Speaking all the languages of the world…but I’d settle for expert welder.

What book are you reading now? “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah.

Do you have a hidden talent? What is it?
I find myself making up songs and singing it to my dogs.  I’d like to think of myself as the Snoop Dogg to dogs.

What is one interesting fact that people might not know about you?
I’m an ordained minister of the Tenrikyo religion and have performed four wedding ceremonies.

If you could only eat one item for every meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Rice would be the easy answer but I’d have to go with spaghetti squash.  It is definitely the most underappreciated squash and so versatile. Although, I am not sure I’d want it for breakfast.