An E-Mail Conversation with Winthrop House administrator Joanna G. Miller

FM heard from Winthrop House administrator Joanna G. Miller about the housing process.

1. Fifteen Minutes: Which three words would you use to describe the housing process? Why?

Joanna G. Miller: A giant puzzle. I say this because the housing process has many many moving and changing pieces (people who decide to return or leave late in the process, people who are uncertain if they’ll return, changing medical circumstances, etc). I am sometimes making housing changes/adjustments right up to move-in day.

2. FM: What, in your opinion, is the most challenging part? Most frustrating? Most rewarding?

JGM: The most challenging part for me is the struggle to get every Winthropian into the best possible housing situation given the needs of students and the reality of the architecture I have to work with. I believe that feeling happy and at home at Harvard and in Winthrop is a very important piece of your time here. The rooming situations available are not “equal,” but there are different things that appeal to different students, so I strive to make the distribution of rooms be (and feel) as fair as possible. The most rewarding part of the process is when students I’ve worked with in difficult situations come back to tell me how happy they are in their rooms.

3. FM: What is it like to work with Harvard students in this capacity? Do you feel as though they make the process easier or more difficult? Or both?

JGM: Without Harvard students there would be no housing, so really there isn’t an easier/harder dichotomy since working with them is the process. For the most part I have found that the students who come to talk to me are very respectful and reasonable. It think that for many of them it helps to hear what issues (more students than spaces in March...upperclassmen make leave and study abroad decisions throughout the spring… and suite configurations that don’t fit the roommate groups coming in to name two) I am dealing with as I try to get them housed.

4. FM: What are your priorities in this process? What is most important for you?

JGM: My priorities in housing are to house every Winthrop student (which is sometimes easier said than done.), to house them in a way that makes Winthrop feel like home, and to make the housing lottery process fair to students. I always want to make decisions that I can back up with a process, not just making one-time exceptions without being able to make the same exceptions for other students in similar circumstances.

5. FM: What can students do to make this process run more smoothly for all involved? Any advice?

JGM: I think the most important thing students can do is to read the lottery rules first. And, then come and talk to me or send me an email with any questions, I am more than happy to explain my reasoning and rationale to any student with concerns. I would also suggest that students think carefully about what their most important priorities in rooming are. Do you want to live with specific people? Or is a certain entryway or room configuration most important? Roommates and friends should discuss candidly what they are looking for in their suite, and in their roommates. There are many instances where people are great friends, but not great roommates because their living styles or schedules are too different. It is much better to have those difficult conversations before you pick a room rather than once you’re living together.