Sarah Erdman’s phone buzzed displaying a text message from one of her resident assistants.
“There’s a guy skinning a cat in the basement,” the text read.
It was 2010, Erdman’s first year as the resident director in Mayfield Hall, the only -female dorm at John Brown University. Though this cat situation was unlike anything she’d ever experienced, Erdman wasn’t fazed.
Erdman was out of town during the skinning, so she sent her Resident Assistant to investigate the situation. They discovered that a young man found a dead groundhog, not a cat, on the side of the road. He then brought it to the Mayfield basement, skinned it and proceeded to make dinner. Erdman had the RAs send him away and mop up the blood of the departed rodent.
Dealing with road kill and its consumers may not be in a typical job description for a woman with her master’s degree, but for Erdman, it’s all in a day’s work.
This year is Erdman’s last as the Mayfield resident director. She and her husband Brock are expecting their first child in June and Erdman feels her responsibilities may clash if she remains the resident director after she becomes a mother.
Erdman, now 26, lived in Mayfield for three years as a student and four years as the resident director.
Erdman graduated in 2008 with her Bachelor’s degree in biology.
In 2009, she married Brock, a former resident of the University’s all-male dorm, J. Alvin Brown Hall. Erdman then completed her Master’s degree in Higher Education at the University, paving the way for her to become the Mayfield resident director.
“I realized, one, I wanted to be an RD, but I think more than that I wanted to be the Mayfield RD,” Erdman said. “I really wanted to serve where I grew so much. I love the culture, and I love the girls.”
Because her father served as a hall director of men’s residence halls for the first twelve years of her life, Erdman knows all about residence life.
“I was the princess with the knights, and they were these cool college guys.” Erdman said, smiling. “When you’re five, that is just the coolest thing ever,”
One of Mayfield’s most beloved traditions was founded by Erdman herself; the annual paint war. Mayfield residents break into teams of their respective halls and cover their opponents in paint. Each team has a different paint color, and the team whose color is most prevalent on their opponents’ white t-shirts wins.
Erdman was the founder of the paint war. She started it during her first year as the resident director. She said that first paint war is one of her favorite experiences in Mayfield. It was the first big, all-hall event and about 175 girls participated, she said.
“It was just so much fun to see people laughing and just having a good time,” Erdman said. “The beginning of school is always so crazy and hectic, you know, and you just don’t feel like you’re doing a good job. So, I think at that moment I was like, ‘Okay, I can do this. This is fun. I enjoy this.’”
Being the resident director for 250 women comes with difficulties as well.
“My first year had all the issues of these three other years combined into one,” Erdman said.
Erdman had residents who struggled with homosexuality, alcohol, heroin addiction, suicide, mental breakdowns, schizophrenia and theft. Erdman understandably became overwhelmed with all these issues. Since her first year, though, she said she has learned how to deal with tough issues while maintaining her sanity.
Hannah Garrett has been an RA in Mayfield for two years. She said Erdman has many qualities that make her a great resident director, among these are responsibility, diligence, and quick decision-making.
“Sarah is a great listener,” Garrett said. “You can tell her what’s going, and she will listen without judgment.”
Kelsey McIntyre has also been an RA for two years in Mayfield and worked under Erdman.
“Sarah has a knack for seeing strengths in people and knowing how they can work together,” McIntyre said.
Each hall in Mayfield has two RAs. McIntyre said Erdman’s good judge of character enables her to choose effectively which RAs work together in the halls.
Erdman said Mayfield holds a special place in her heart, and Mayfield residents agree that the feeling is mutual.
Erdman said the committee hiring the new resident director is looking at several great candidates, They hope to have a final decision by May.