Staff Spotlight – What it’s like to manage an apartment community

Frederiksen Court is one of Iowa State’s on-campus apartment communities providing a home to more than 1800 students in the area’s 29 buildings. Like other places on campus, Frederiksen Court has full-time, live-in staff support.

It may sound daunting to manage a community the size of a small town where all the residents are college students – but not to Cody Simons. “Every day is different – It never gets boring,” he said.

Simons serves as an Apartment Community Manager (ACM) in Frederiksen Court – or “Freddy” as students call it. He, along with Joshua “Buffalo” Burns, Madeline Fer and a team of 29 Community Advisers make up the staff that help guide Freddy residents through their Cyclone adventure.

His focus? Creating an environment where each student can choose the type of experience they want to have here.

“Everyone is different, whether they want to focus on studying, have a project they want to do to make the community a better place – whatever,” he said. “I want to know what that looks like and how can we meet that.”

Simons leans on his experience to guide him in his work. He’s been at Iowa State for 10 years. As an undergraduate studying Agronomy, Simons became a CA in Helser Hall the spring semester of his sophomore year. From there he worked as the Graduate Assistant in Friley Hall and then became an Apartment Community Manager at Frederiksen. He is now in his fourth year there.

A Man of Many Hats

As the ACM, Simons is more than just the apartment manager. He is a recreation director, counselor, peace officer and ISU resource, among others. However, his first priority is to help people that live in Frederiksen, “Whatever people need … How can we help?” he said. “Sometimes we even move furniture.”

As the manager, he works closely with the CA staff to make sure they have what they need so their area runs the best it can.

“Our CAs do a million different things. The opportunities staff provide to students gives them the ability to pick and choose what they’d like to engage in.”

He and the staff make a point to meet with the CAs on a regular basis. Since CAs are students, too, listening to them helps out a lot. “What we hear from them we use to adjust our programming to best suit the community.”

Programing is a big part of living on campus, building community and getting people engaged. Each year Freddy has community-wide events, like the Block Party in the fall. This carnival-like event features music, games, food trucks and more.

“That event has been really helpful. It’s not just a fun social event, but it also helps students see all the resources available to them on campus.” Due to COVID-19, this year’s event was cancelled but the team is looking forward to bringing it back next year.

This year, virtual events are taking the place of face-to-face gatherings. Staff launched the cutest pet contest that gave residents to show off their furry best friends – whether at home or in Freddy. And since not all apartments in Frederiksen are pet friendly, some students even bragged on their non-living pets. “Someone dressed up a pineapple and we even saw a pet rock,” Simons said.

Wearing the hat of a counselor is probably the biggest joy, and what he likes best about the job, says Simons. There are students stopping by all the time knocking on his office door asking questions. Most of the conversations are based on navigating what comes next.

“We are working with people that may not know what they’re going to do next and I help them work through that.”

He recounts one story of a student who was a month away from graduating and came to Simons because he wasn’t sure his chosen path was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

“We talked for quite a while,” he said. “Listening to him and putting him in touch with his adviser, he ended up realizing that one more semester would be better in the long run and help him reach his goals after graduation.”

Best of Both Worlds

Simons describes Frederiksen Court as the “best of both worlds.” Living in Freddy allows students to acclimate to living on their own before moving on and renting in a new city or buying a house. It’s apartment ownership with some grace and security.

“You can live independently, but not in a full-time capacity where you’re juggling bills and everything that goes with it. Here, everything is tied together.”

Simons also points out that Frederiksen is so close to campus.

“We don’t talk about it enough, but depending on your major, living in Frederiksen is closer to campus than living in some residence halls. If you’re an agronomy or meteorology major, this is as close to those buildings as you can get – it’s only a three-minute walk.”