Zina Teague earned her bachelor’s in sociology and psychology from Houghton College, where she worked for five years in the Office of Admissions. Teague came to AU in the fall of 2017 as the new Morrison Hall RD.
What led you to become an RD at AU?
When I graduated from college—I went to a small, Christian private school similar to AU up in western New York called Houghton college—I ended up staying at Houghton and working in the admissions office for five years. I really enjoyed that job; I enjoyed being able to share Houghton and I enjoyed helping students figure out if that would be the right fit for them.
I always got a little sad when August would come around. You work all year with these students, you know them well and you get to know their families. August comes and it’s almost like you turn them over, and that’s it. There’s this really cool relationship that you’ve built, and it’s gone. That was one thing that always got me.
I wished that there was some way that I could continue to work with those students and help them through their time at college, especially since I totally get what it’s like to leave home. I was six hours away from home as a student at Houghton. I get what it’s like to move away from home and to transition to college.
Throughout my time there, I also was super intentional about spending time with students and being a part of student life in some way. I would host dinner at my house every Sunday. There was a crew of 10 or 12 students who showed up faithfully every Sunday for dinner. I just loved spending time hanging out with them, seeing how they were doing, checking in, making sure they had a space on campus where they felt safe and comfortable.
I loved admissions, but I was ready to move out of it. It had been five years and I was looking for something I would be passionate about. The RD role came to mind, so I talked to a couple of people about it. Last year when I was looking for jobs, this showed up so I applied and got in. Ta-dah! I’m here.
What is your top priority or your main goal as the RD at Morrison?
Being the RD here at Morrison, I think one of the biggest things—and this is just part of the purpose of resident’s life—is helping students find their place here. The overall goal of coming to school is to get a phenomenal education that will prepare you to make an impact wherever you go in the world. That’s beautiful, but it’s hard to have that experience if you don’t feel comfortable here, if you don’t feel like you’ve found your space here or if you don’t feel like you belong here.
As an RD living in the building and doing life with my residents, I want to be able to create that atmosphere and that space where people feel at home, where they feel comfortable and they feel like Morrison is home for them even though they may be miles away. I want them to know that this is a space where they can be comfortable and they can be themselves no matter what that looks like, but also be challenged to meet people outside of their comfort zone and explore what life has to offer.
What’s your favorite part of being an RD?
So far, and this is going to sound so cheesy, but I think it’s seeing people transform. There are students who come in and start off thinking, “This is not home. This is very foreign to me. I don’t know if I can make it here. I don’t know why I made this decision. This is a new journey that I’m on. My mom and dad aren’t here. I’m by myself.” I see those same students slowly get comfortable.
I love when we have staff meetings because we’ll talk about the “Lobby Crew.” There’s a group of girls who are always in the lobby, and I know that if I walk by I’m going to see at least two or three of them hanging out. I love that. I love to see that they’ve gone from being nervous or excited to feeling comfortable and at home and finding their place.
Over four years, I will see people growing into who God is calling them to be, finding themselves, becoming sure of who they are or being willing to explore more of
what life has to offer them.
At Houghton, it was really neat to spend five years following a class that I had brought in all the way to the end. It was phenomenal. I bawled my eyes out at graduation after watching that process. I’m super excited to be part of that here at AU and to see how people grow and transform in their time at college, whether it’s in their first year or over the span of their college career.
How do you hope your presence will impact and encourage Morrison residents?
I want my presence to be one that brings comfort and ease and lets people know that they can be themselves. No matter what that looks like, I want my residents to be themselves and also be willing to recognize that there may be others who are a little different who should be allowed to be themselves too.
I understand that there are quirks about me that some people might question, and I love that about myself. I want people to see that part of themselves, whatever that is, and embrace it and love it. I would love to see us unite as a building and come together and support each other in that as well. Whatever those differences are that tend to pull us apart, let those be the things that we can learn to love about each other and that will pull us together and unite us. I hope that’s what my presence can bring to Morrison.
Also what I think is super dope is that I have a really neat opportunity to influence the people who live here in Morrison who can go influence the rest of our campus as well.
How have you been able to apply the knowledge and experience you gained studying psychology and
sociology to situations in the hall and on campus?
Both my psychology and sociology backgrounds come up every day in little day-to-day things. I can interact well with people and help people to interact well with one another. When creating a community, an atmosphere and a sense of belonging, I can use my background to accomplish that.
Also being in residents’ lives, you’re dealing with mental health issues, identity issues and people who struggle with all different types of issues. Having gone through some training in psychology and sociology helps a lot.
My sociology knowledge definitely comes into play in a lot of the conversations that I might have with people when it comes to everyday issues that we see on TV or that we read about like race and reconciliation, sexual orientation or any other hot topic that comes up.
In the little things and in the big things I feel like I’m using knowledge that I picked up from class.
From where does your love for music come?
I grew up in the church. My dad’s a pastor, so I’ve been going to church my whole life, literally. I’ve always loved singing. I joined gospel choir when I was away at college and that was one of the spaces I found that helped me feel really comfortable. It was my home away from home. It was a piece of home that I could have with me at Houghton. That was the space where I felt like I could open up, be honest and be myself without judgement. That was the space where I felt comfortable and where I grew in my faith big time.
That was also where I learned what leadership was really about because I ended up directing that choir for two and a half years. That was where I learned what it really meant to serve people. I learned that being a servant isn’t about sitting on a pedestal, it’s about getting down and doing the hardest jobs, and it means that you have to learn to follow and listen well. You have to learn so much to serve and lead well.
I just love music. I’m sure anyone who walks by my door at some point in time hears me screaming and singing at the top of my lungs. If you walk by the RA office while I’m in there during the day, I’m probably singing.
There’s something about gospel music that just connects with my soul. It literally gives me life. It helps me realize the goodness of God through the hardest times. It gives me hope. I just love singing, and I love gospel music.
To be able to come here and participate in gospel choir was an easy fit. I didn’t want to pursue that just because it was something I had done before, but getting here and seeing that it was a space where I could come in, help out, be an advisor and serve was a neat opportunity.
It’s been super dope for me because it’s one of the ways that I’ve been able to get to know the AU community and to really dig in and become part of it.