The Wonder of Residence Life: Kyle Wonders

Blake McMillan

Nuzzled past the front desk of Student Success is the Residence Life office. It has lately housed a rotation of different Head of Resident Life faculty members at Buena Vista University. But now, someone passionate about student living has moved into the space.

Kyle Wonders is originally from Waukee, Iowa, but has lived in Sioux City for the last ten years. “I actually was working at Briar Cliff University and my old position was eliminated. I have been working remotely for BV for the last year and a half or so. I was a part of the extended university programs working in Sioux City,” Wonders explained. The extended university program is an online initiative to get students in com

munity college to transfer to a university where they can obtain their Bachelor’s. “We work a lot with the non-traditional students who are going back to school.”

Wonders is not new to residence life; he’s been in it since he was a student. In undergrad, he was an RA, then worked professionally for ten years. That love of working in higher education was combined with the love he has for this side of Iowa, leading him to BVU. “I was looking to stay in higher ed because it’s what I really enjoy doing. I wanted to stay in this part of the state, it’s where my wife’s family is and, so, we like being around family with cousins for our kids to play with.”

Wonders says he loves both the town of Storm Lake and the institution he’s been hired at. “It’s a cliché answer but it’s the people. That’s one of the reasons why I knew I liked it as soon as I started working here. People seem to really care about the students here, and that’s why I like this line of work,” he said. “It’s a really unique population here, especially for this side of the state. It’s a lot more diverse than you get in schools this size in Iowa. It really forms a really special community that I’ve been really impressed with.”

Starting at BVU remotely during the pandemic didn’t quite uproot Wonders as much as it did others. “We were able to work from home, so it didn’t affect us at all. My wife is a teacher, so she was able to work from home,” he said. “We both had jobs that left us on the whole time.” The only major downside of being at home was his kids who missed extended family members. “It’s hard when they’re young to explain to them why we can’t go see grandma and grandpa, that was probably the most difficult part for us.”

When asked what he loves most about working in this field, Wonders gives a surprising answer. “I’ve always said it’s the people who have issues when you start working with them.” But it makes sense. Wonders is in the people-helping business of university life. He explained, “The kids who show up knowing what they want to do and they’re super active and you know they’re going to graduate and do great things, they’re fun, too. But it’s more rewarding when you have the ones who are struggling to find their place and you’re able to help them take that step.” It’s an answer that shows why Wonders arrived at BV in the first place. “Those are the ones that give you the most reward.”

His advice to freshmen? “Oh, so many things. The biggest one is get involved. The students I’ve seen not do well are the ones who don’t get out and meet people and find something to attach themselves to.” Probably his best advice to high school students who are in the midst of applying to BV — “I tell them before they get here, don’t room with your best friend.”

It’s strange to think that a dream college doesn’t exist just for incoming students, but new faculty, too. BVU is where Wonders has wanted to be. When asked what he wants to do next here, he simply answered, “Right now, I’m doing it. This is what I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so I’m enjoying it.”