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Tony Cawthon holds his “office hours” as the scholar in residence for the Southeastern Association of Housing Officers.
Image Credit: Tony Cawthon

The Southeastern Association of Housing Officers recently selected a College of Education faculty member to serve as its scholar in residence. Tony Cawthon, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Student Affairs and Higher Education in Clemson’s College of Education, was selected based on his work in the academic realm and his history of working at various levels of housing for multiple institutions.

The association’s conference was held in early March in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Cawthon presented and held “office hours” for professionals in attendance. Cawthon said he was both delighted and humbled to be selected and serve in this role for the association, as it honors both of the areas he has been passionate about during his entire career.

“This was very special to me because I started my career in housing, and the association was my first professional involvement,” Cawthon said. “It allowed me to grow personally and professionally and establish a network of colleagues and friends.”

Although Cawthon has served as a faculty member at Clemson for almost two decades, his career began in housing. He started as residence life coordinator at Mississippi State University, where he worked in many areas of housing, and eventually made the move to Clemson to serve as director of residential life, where he served for six years before moving to full time faculty.

Considering his career has been roughly split between these two professions, it made sense that housing professionals both seasoned and new wanted to hear what Cawthon had to say as a scholar in residence. The “office hours” involved found Cawthon manning a booth that allowed attendees to approach with questions, and Cawthon was delighted to see a line of people waiting for guidance and feedback or to simply share research interests.

“It was exciting to interact and learn from the current and future generation of housing professionals,” Cawthon said. “The work they do on campuses is changing the lives of so many, and it was encouraging to see these professionals invest in their own development by attending the conference. I was humbled to be a part of their journey.”

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Cawthon delivers a talk during the conference’s opening lunch.
Image Credit: Tony Cawthon

Cawthon provided remarks during the conference’s opening lunch and presented during a session he entitled “Is a Doctorate in Your Future?” A Q&A with Cawthon was also featured in “SEAHO Report,” the association’s magazine, while Cawthon made one of his past articles written with colleagues, “Why University Housing Really Matters,” available at his table while I met with housing professionals.

The article focused on philosophical approaches to delivering and operating university housing, and while Cawthon said the article was published in 2001, it might be just as much if not more relevant today. He said university housing allows students to become exposed to different cultures and challenges their own thinking in and out of the classroom. The many positive impacts it can have in the lives of young adults are needed now more than ever, according to Cawthon.

“Given the current state and climate at campuses, we all need to reinvest in civility,” Cawthon said. “Many have lost the ability to engage in civil discourse and difficult dialogues without it becoming personal and in some cases downright mean. As educators, we must model how to truly listen for students, as opposed to getting so busy framing a response or argument. Difficult dialogues are hard work, tiring and necessary if we want to leave the world a better place than we found it.”