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Concordia University’s tunnel is bustling with activity during the school year. Nestled within the Student Life suite, assistant director Jake Wakem’s office door is nearly always open to encourage the interaction with students.
Wakem joined the CSP Residence Life team as assistant director during the summer of 2017. A St. Paul, Minn., native, he attended school at St. Bernard’s High School and then stayed local to pursue his undergraduate degree at the University of St. Thomas. He graduated with degrees in communication and business with a minor in justice and peace studies.
After his undergraduate career, he went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling and student affairs from Kansas State University. For his first job, he was a hall director for a freshman dorm complex of 800 students at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.
A typical day for Wakem includes the supervision of four graduate hall coordinators, supervision of all residence assistants (RA), the creation of all departmental training, overseeing all of Residence Life’s hiring, housing placements, room changes, intramural sports system, all departmental programs and events, and counselor for students in crisis.
“I meet with students who have ideas to improve our campus, students who might be going through issues, or students who want to process topics – big or small,” Wakem explained.
As an undergrad student, Wakem’s passion for travel was ignited as he led several service trips around the world.
“I saw incredible power in service,” Wakem recalled.
It was on a service trip high up in a California mountain range that he felt his calling swiftly shift away from business and focus squarely on student affairs.
Wakem is still drawn to service trips like the one that inspired him to work with students. He has been a part of several service trips sponsored by CSP’s CALL Center including Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Houston, Texas.
“I had the opportunity to be a staff advisor for the Houston trip,” Wakem said. “We rebuilt houses that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey, met community members, grew in faith, dove into reflection, and even jumped in the Gulf of Mexico.”
One of the biggest highlights of the school year for Wakem was also one of the biggest surprises: growing CSP’s intramural clubs. Intramural participation at Concordia has been low historically, however, this year participation climbed to 90 participants in the fall and 110 by the spring.
“We offered volleyball, basketball, and soccer. We also partnered with International Student Services to promote our soccer season and had two teams of international students and eight other teams compete for the championships this spring,” he shared.
Wakem noted that intramurals have been an exciting way to bridge cultures and CSP groups and welcome all campus-wide. With the program growing, they have been able to hire a seven-person executive board to plan intramural seasons, advertise and spread the word, reserve game spaces, and host the leagues. Championship games even have live DJs, raffles, half-court shot competitions, and soon will include a championship banner reveal.
As for what’s next, Wakem says that students have asked for flag football, ultimate frisbee, and more so there will be surprises to come.
Wakem encourages students to get involved and emphasizes that the opportunities are immense. He noted that any student can propose to start a club on campus — all they need is a few friends, an idea, a purpose, and a proposal. With that, student clubs and organizations can continue to grow.
“All it takes is one bold decision to change your college experience. One small step of confidence, one small decision to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to try this!’ can make one good connection. That one connection can expose you to a new passion,” he noted.
Students can also get involved by suggesting event ideas to their RA. This past year, a student requested a marshmallow dodgeball tournament and they made it happen by reserving the BEC and hosting marshmallow-themed games with glow sticks, lights out, and food.
Recently, Wakem was selected to be the professional development and networking chair for the Minnesota Region of Housing Professionals as well as be a part of the assessment committee for the Midwest Region of Housing Professionals. A believer in professional development, both opportunities were goals of his that he is excited to have the chance to pursue.
The most rewarding part to Wakem is the opportunity to work with an impressive group of student leaders.
“At the end of the day, the most rewarding thing is the student’s potential and the moment they realize they can be a student leader or do something new. It’s when that lightbulb goes off,” he beamed.
Anyone interested in reaching Wakem is welcome to visit his office in the Student Life Suite at Meyer Hall 111.