It’s 8:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night in August. As the girl lays her head down to rest, she is weighed down by the unknowns that lay ahead when she awakes. Freshman year, college move-in day. This is a day where the world feels like it’s ending. But in reality, is really just beginning. As she fearfully walks towards the dorm, she is greeted by a girl with a smile. This girl happens to be Lyndsey Lopez, the Resident Director of WMU Residence Center at Oklahoma Baptist University.
Lopez is from Fayetteville, Arkansas, but made her way to Oklahoma in the Fall of 2014. As the search for college was on, Lopez had her heart set on Baylor University. Lopez applied early action to the University and was gearing up to go. This decision seemed final, until her family hosted her church youth group intern for the summer. The intern happened to be a student at OBU and introduced Lopez and her family to the University.
“My parents had a rule that you have to apply to at least three schools and I still was missing my last one,” Lopez said. Lopez decided to apply to OBU and fulfilled her parents’ college application requirement—applying to OBU is free and there is no essay required, which attracts many people to apply. For Lopez, she applied as an act of obedience. She honored her parents college application rule, and applied. God rewarded her for this obedience, but in a special way. He opened her heart to Oklahoma Baptist University, and made a way for her to go. Lopez visited OBU on a preview day.
“The first thing we did here was actually worship,” she said. “And so, I felt the Lord calling me there.” This preview day was only the beginning of a long future the Lord had for Lopez at OBU.
As a student at Oklahoma Baptist University, Lopez had a calling to work with students. While at school she studied secondary English education with plans of becoming a teacher. Upon graduating in 2018, she had the opportunity to teach seventh grade. After teaching for a year, she began to feel the Lord drawing her heart back to OBU. This would be a big move as she and her husband AJ would have to pack up everything and move back to Shawnee, Oklahoma. But no matter the sacrifice, she chose to be obedient to God’s calling for her life. “\Building relationships with college students is really what made me want to come back as an RD,” Lopez said. In 2019 she began her first year as Resident Director of the WMU Residence Center.
In her years as a student in college, Lopez lived in the WMU dorm all four years. She lived there as a freshman and then became a Resident Assistant for her sophomore through senior year. Those years helped pave the way to her becoming a Resident Director later in life. Lopez said being a Resident Director had “always been in the back of [her] mind like a dream job” so when her boss was promoted, she diligently prayed about what that meant for her. It was no coincidence that the Lord used her as a Resident Assistant and a teacher. All of this experience prepared her for the Resident Director job. She said teaching uniquely equipped her to “come up with creative ideas to engage people holistically not just socially.” “We all have a little bit of our seventh-grade self,” she said, so by having the experience in the classroom, she was able to transition to the dorm. Through being an RA in her time at college she said, “building relationships with college students is really what made me want to come back as an RD.” Living with 200 freshman girls, Lopez works diligently to cultivate community and create relationships with students as they are making the big transition to college. Freshman student Bria Evert, a girl walking through the transition herself, shared how Lopez positively impacted her experience with moving to college
“She was always caring, supportive, and encouraging in every situation,” Lopez said. She helped me grow through circumstances I was faced with.” As freshman year feels like jumping in the deep end, Lopez has done an amazing job to help students stay afloat.
This being her second year as a Resident Director, Lopez has faced a lot of challenges due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But she has handled it with such grace as she relies on the Lord for her strength. After leaving for Spring break in 2020 and not returning, many unknowns about what the following fall semester would look like plagued the minds of college students. In Spring 2020 OBU announced that the Fall semester classes would be held in person. This left parents and students with excitement, but fear about what the year would look like. The staff began gearing up for the nearing semester. Being the director of a dorm, there were many unknowns about how residential life would work for the upcoming year. Lopez shared how COVID has “introduced a level of flexibility and adaptation to what programming looks like for the girls that live in the building.” She said that her experience as a teacher “prepared [her] for the unpredictable future that sometimes is living in a building with 200 other women.”
Lopez is evidence that God allows us to walk through certain situations in life, so that He can prepare us for the future. Planning events for students through a pandemic looks like a daunting task to many, but Lopez has successfully navigated it. Lopez keeps the student’s safety always on mind, she said, “we have to rethink the events a bit and see if we can make it COVID friendly.” Alongside the RA staff, Lopez has brought safe socially distant fun to the WMU dorm. She said “we’ve had to reevaluate what we’re going to do with these events. We have to make the effort to make sure that people have outlets to connect with one another. Also, that these events are worth it for people to come to.” From bonfires, to Christmas parties, to the annual WMU January Term Olympics, Lopez and her staff have done it all. These safe and socially distant events have shaped the school year, and bring joy to the dorm.
Freshman student Carly Meritt discussed some of these events.
“My favorite event was the J-term WMU Olympics,” she said. “I liked the dance parties that happened at the end of every night, because it helped bring a sense of community to the girls living in the dorm. It was an experience I’ll never forget.” Through the Olympic events, Lyndsey and the RA staff did all they could make sure student felt welcomed back. These are memories freshman girls will always remember through college and on.
Planning events, building relationships, and running a dorm isn’t an easy task. The COVID-19 outbreak has made this job even more tasking.
“It’s a little harder to get people out of their dorm rooms, because they have to wear their masks… it’s harder to have genuine conversations with people,” Lopez said. To overcome these obstacles, Lopez works alongside an incredible staff of Residential Assistants. They have worked diligently to make sure the residents are safe, taken care of and encouraged.
Junior RA Jacqui Denny also shared her experience working under the authority of Lopez. “Lyndsey has had such a positive impact on me this year,” she said. “She is seriously the best encourager and supporter in all things.” Working during the pandemic, Denny said, “Lyndsey has been a champ at handling COVID and all the implications of it this year. She expects us to honor the university’s protocols and procedures for COVID.” With following the rules, she said she creates a safe and welcoming environment for the women that live in WMU. Though reminding students to wear masks and encourage social distancing isn’t the most glorious task, by enforcing the protocols, Lopez has had a positive impact on the number of freshman girls who remain on campus. Under Lopez’s authority, the WMU staff has successfully created a positive environment for freshman girls, even in the midst of a pandemic.
Freshman commented on the positive environment.
“I walked into the school year with many fears of what it would look like, but thanks to Lyndsey’s leadership, I feel not only safe but valued.” Lopez has been an example to the freshman girls of what a woman of faith looks like, even in the midst of the unknown.
With Spring semester, comes enrollment for incoming freshman students. As staff begins gearing up for the next year, Lopez is also beginning to think about what next year will hold. “We’re kind of in a mode of just praying, praying and praying,” she said. Lopez puts the future in God’s hands and knows He will make a way. For now, she is seeking to make the most of this current semester. Lopez said, “I want to make sure that the women who are in this building now are getting all the attention, and all of my time and effort that I can possibly give to them while they are still here.”
As a Resident Director there is a big push for building relationships. Lopez said she values every encounter she has with students. She seeks to make people feel valued. She seeks to make people feel known. She seeks to make people feel loved. COVID has cause many unexpected changes this year, but Lopez has been a constant through it all. When students look at Lyndsey Lopez, they see God working in and feel His love through her. All because an act of obedience brought Lyndsey to OBU, so many lives have been impacted. She is an example of the many wonders God can do, if a person simply says “yes” to what He has for them. For the freshman girl making the big leap to college, Lyndsey Lopez is always there to welcome her home.