To help her grandfather better understand her occupation, Angelita (Angie) Bonilla, associate dean and director of the Office of Housing and Residence Life at Rutgers-Newark, told him her role was similar to that of a building superintendent.
“Housing seemed like a natural for me,” remarks Bonilla. “From an early age I would tag along with my grandfather as he made his rounds collecting rent and making repairs.”
At age six, Bonilla also often shadowed her aunt, who was a resident advisor at a local college. The early indoctrination paid off in many intangible ways.
“I love what I do because I’m never bored. One day I’m a counselor, detective, and judge. The next day I’m a business manager, supervisor, and parent. I can’t think of any other profession that offers such variety.”
Bonilla, who joined the Office of Housing and Residence Life at RutgersNewark in 1998, began her career in housing as a mail clerk at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst during her freshman year. Since then, she has never veered from that path and has hands-on experience in all aspects of residence housing. Her job titles have included mail clerk, resident advisor, assistant hall director, area director, assistant director, associate director, and currently associate dean and director.
With a staff size exceeding 80, Bonilla attributes her success in housing to her ability to empathize with all of her employees. “I’ve literally done all of their jobs,” she jokes. As associate dean and director, Bonilla’s primary responsibility is to ensure the students reside in a safe, secure and clean environment that is conducive to studying and meeting new friends. She oversees six properties: Talbott Apartments, Woodward Hall, University Square, 29 James Street, 77 Bleeker Street, and 180 West Market Street (housing for the newly added Rutgers Health Sciences Campus at Newark). And in 2015, 15 Washington Street will come under her purview.
“Over the past 15 years, I have seen the perception of R-N on-campus housing change for the better, with demand growing considerably.”
In 1998, the campus had capacity for approximately 690 occupants. Presently, the number is about 1,745, which includes individuals who are enrolled at the Rutgers Health Sciences Campus at Newark. The new residence at 15 Washington Street will accommodate roughly 350 residents.
When she’s not inspecting the grounds, motivating her employees, or sharing smiles with residents, Bonilla enjoys traveling, socializing with family and friends, and photographing people.
“I guess I’m in housing because I’m a ‘people person’ at heart.”
This may explain why dinner on freshmen move-in day is a favorite of Bonilla.
“The diversity, excitement and camaraderie in the dining hall are indescribable. It’s quite impressive.”