Former CRA Steve Zatarain Returns as New Atwater CRD


To the excitement of many students, Steve Zatarain ’15 returned to campus last week to serve as the new interim Atwater Commons Residence Director (CRD). 

Students in Atwater Commons received notification of his arrival in an email last Monday from Atwater Dean Scott Barnicle, announcing that Zatarain will serve as CRD until the end of the semester. He is filling a spot that was left vacant by Doug Desrochers, who left the position in January. 

Zatarain has a long history with Atwater. He was a member of the commons as a student, served as an First Year Counselor (FYC) and Community Assistant, and also worked for two years as Atwater Commons Resident Assistant (CRA) — the predecessor position to CRD.

During a recent, coincidental trip to Middlebury, Barnicle said he asked Zatarain if he would be interested in the job. 

“It was one of those cool moments where necessity creates creativity,” Barnicle said in an email to The Campus. 

“It was a unique opportunity,” Zatarain told The Campus. He expressed excitement about seeing students graduate this spring who were first-years when he was in his first year as a CRA.

Several members of Atwater cited  Zatarain’s upbeat personality and passion for creating community as two of his strengths.

“His people skills, compassion and professionalism are exemplary,” Barnicle said, adding that, due to his previous experience, Zatarain was able to step into the job part way through the year with relative ease.

Atwater Commons Head Sandra Carletti believes that Zatarain’s easygoing attitude will have a positive impact on the community.

 “After spending the last year and a half working for the Posse Foundation in Los Angeles, he is bringing back to Vermont an even more accentuated California vibe,” she said. 

Sandhya Sewnauth ’20 is currently an FYC in Allen and was a first-year during Zatarain’s last year as CRD. She expressed that, while she was sad to see Desrochers leave, she is happy to have Zatarain return to Atwater. 

“Stevie brings such refreshing energy to our team in a new semester and it feels very natural to have him back,” she said. Sewnauth recalled his positivity and inclusive attitude from his time as CRA.

“I really love supporting students, that’s something I have a passion for,” Zatarain said. He has maintained these passions since his time as a Middlebury student, and said that his most rewarding work in Residential Life was when he served as a FYC and got to build a community on his hall to support transitioning first-year students.

Students often express confusion about what the role of CRD entails. To Zatarain, CRD is a community-building position, which to him means constantly being a presence on campus.

Barnicle similarly said that “caring about people and representing the institution” were the main responsibilities of the position. 

Zatarain also acknowledged there will be challenges in his new position. He recognized that students often do not have time to take part in programing. 

“I’m trying the gauge the room,” he said, explaining that he is talking to Residential Life members about what they want. He is trying to find ways to make programming relaxing, de-stressing and more accessible for students who often have a packed schedule.

Barnicle recognized the difficulties Zatarain might face adjusting to the new systems that have been put in place since he served as a CRA. Zatarain said that he is currently navigating the differences between being a CRA and a CRD, as well as figuring out these new structures. 

“The key values of it, of being thoughtful for students, supporting folks and promoting diversity, inclusion and equity will all be there,” Zatarain said.

When asked why he was excited to have Steve join the Atwater ResLife Team, Barnicle rejected the use of the term “join.”

“Rejoin!” Barnicle said. “He was Atwater for six years, it’s a for-life thing.”