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Marcus Weemes is directing traffic.

Weemes came home to help students find their places

By Blake Sebring

August 29, 2023

Whenever Marcus Weemes thinks on the past 27 years of his life, he says a “thank you” to Cindy Boglin.

While he was a resident assistant working an office shift as a student at Ball State, she suggested he consider a career in student services. The idea led Weemes to positions in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and California before coming to Purdue University Fort Wayne in January as the director student housing.

It was a return home to Fort Wayne where he hadn’t lived in more than 26 years. The time was just right to move closer to family, and Weemes was looking at open positions on campus when he discovered the director position had been posted two days prior.

Now he’s in charge of an operation that helps house nearly 1,600 students in all—including more than 1,200 living across 13 buildings on the Waterfield Campus. His responsibilities include supervision of 13 full-time employees, 34 resident assistants, and between 10 and 12 desk workers.

Due to the continued strong demand for housing, in addition to what’s available on the Waterfield Campus, the university also partners with several other nearby apartment complexes. This need led to the creation of the new PFW Community at the Holiday Inn earlier this year.

“It’s about trying to find ways to focus on what I tell my staff,” Weemes said. “We’re going to try our best to have an obsession for the customer experience, and the customers are the students, their parents and families, and our visitors.”

Weemes said his job helps keep him younger than he feels some days. He loves the interaction with students because of their vitality, ideas, and passion. He also enjoys taking part in the events around housing as an opportunity to engage in developing community. That’s partly why the Student Activities Board is sponsoring more events at housing this year, which are open to all PFW and IUFW students.

“I think one of the things that is really important is helping people find their space and their identity away from their family and helping them develop,” Weemes said. “There are a lot of programs the RAs do themselves and partner with a lot of offices on campus to make those things happen.”

As an example, Weemes attended a cookout recently in housing where the RAs cooked up a barbecue for the 300 summer residents.

“It helps me understand what is going on, and I have a better pulse,” Weemes said.

He has lots of ideas for the future, including developing learning living communities, which he hopes can feature more faculty and staff participation. Weemes also wants to expand programming engagement, and is always studying technology to see how things can run better or provide students with better services. During the two move-in days on Aug. 17 and 18, students were assigned QR codes to make the process easier for everyone. The clubhouse staff will also be open later daily and on Sundays to provide additional services.

Creating community is also why more than 150 employees pitched in for the first time this year helping students and families get moved in.

“Students that are living here have the opportunity to make life-long friends and connections,” Weemes said, “and I want us to get to a place where everybody comes in that first year and they want to stay all four years. That makes it more difficult for people like me because I don’t have enough space, but that’s true success.”

Originally, Weemes majored in political science and theatre, earned a master’s degree in project management and business management, and recently started on his doctorate in educational leadership and innovation through Purdue Global.
“I don’t plan on going anywhere,” Weemes said. “I’m good where I’m at. For me, the job is a job, but it’s the people who you work for and with that make it where you want to stay. I grow a fond attachment to the people I get to work closely with.

“No day is the same here. You come in thinking, `This is what I’m going to do today,’ and then you get side-railed because a student walks in who may need help. But you never know how your impact on them may change the trajectory of their life.”

Sort of like Cindy Boglin did for him.