Haze wants students to enjoy their stay in DC, Ontario Tech residence

Chirs Haze in his office in the South Village Residence on the campus of Durham College, and Ontario Tech University. Photo credit: Tracey Bowers-Lee

For two decades Chris Haze has been in charge of campus living for more than 1,200 students annually at Durham College (DC) and Ontario Tech University.

He was here for the opening of the university in 2003, the expansion of the college and the evolution of the residence.

During his time here, Haze, 43, worked his way from the front desk at Simcoe Village North Hall residence to his corner office on the third floor of the Oshawa Campus South Village.

“I started at the front desk just interacting with the students which was fun. You know it’s kind of a different job; nobody goes to school to work in a college residence. There’s not a program that you take, I took marketing,” says Haze.

For a brief time, Haze, worked as the residence life coordinator and in 2001, he became general manager.

His mentor, Scott Woods is still with Campus Living Centre ­– a management company for student housing across the province – as a director at Seneca College in Toronto. Haze and Woods worked together for five years and in that time, Haze learned the operation of overseeing the business behind residence living.

“That was a huge learning experience for me. I was very fortunate to be here with a mentor. He was very instrumental in helping me,” he explains.

In turn, Haze takes pride in mentoring his employees, including Jaclyn O’Sullivan, who has progressed from a duty manager to operations manager in the last five years.

His days are diverse but with the partnership with his “awesome team,” he looks over all aspects of residence operation, including troubleshooting operational issues and addressing any emergent situations that come up.

He says the best thing is when he works with his staff and sees their growth. The worst thing is when students are not enjoying their time at residence.

Since he took over as director, he has made changes each year to help students living in residence stay current and inclusive.

“We are among the first on-campus residence to offer gender-inclusive housing, in response to student demand but also acknowledging gender fluidity. It’s not as binary as it once was where girls went here and boys went there. The choice is handled thoughtfully, making certain students have the opportunity to self-select.”

One of Haze’s proudest achievements is the onsite mental help outreach.

“As mental health has become a more prevalent issue in society, it obviously has its place in a residence as well,” he says.

He explains some students are coming to school as young as 16 and need help with transitioning into living away from home.

Haze believes the future of on-campus living is bright and wants to open the residence to as many students as possible by helping resolve some of the barriers keeping them away – including cost.

“We added the quad suites (four person bunk room living). It’s a super low cost. It’s $3,400 for the entire eight months. We’ve renovated the room and have a full-size kitchen and more storage. Students are remarkably happy with them.”

Haze’s goal this year is to build a better social media presence. He believes young people are always on their phones so why not engage with them where they live.

In the summer residence transitions as a hotel but if Haze could choose he would have students year-round. With students, there is time to build a rapport.

“Students get into a rhythm and we get into a rhythm with the students for the most part it’s pretty productive. There are some students we cannot connect with and you can’t please everybody but we do try,” says Haze.

When it comes to dealing with student issues, Haze equates it to not wanting to be the umpire who has an inconsistent strike zone or who makes bad calls.

“I’m a big sports fan. I think the best officials are the ones that are there, they are controlling the game. The game is working as it should, so the player can do their best, but you don’t notice them. They just do their job. And that’s where I think we fit into the students’ lives.”