Editor's note: This Q&A article has been edited for clarity and brevity.
J. Chris Hager sat down with a reporter of The Ball State Daily News to answer questions about his new role at Ball State. Hager, the newly-named associate director of student life, fills the role vacated since Kari Murphy stepped down from her position as director of Greek Life.
In his role, Hager will provide leadership and oversight to the fraternity and sorority community. This includes the three governing councils (IFC, PHA, NPHC), 31 chapters and more than 1,900 members.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about yourself when you were a student?
A. I was a transfer student here. I came here because of the arts, really the journalism program, primarily looking at public relations and advertising. When I got here, I joined my Greek letter organization which was Sigma Nu. I was active in the chapter for a few years and I graduated with my bachelor's and then I took a job with my national fraternity as a leadership consultant.
I did that for about a year and a half, and then I came back to Ball State to get my masters in the Student Affairs administration and higher education program. I was on [Student Government Association], Cardinal Communications and [Public Relations Student Society of America] when I was an undergrad here. I was very heavily involved in my Greek organization as well as being involved in the Interfraternity Council, and I did Greek Week and was on [the] Greek Week Committee. The one thing that did not get selected for that I'm still a little bitter about was that I was not on the Homecoming Steering Committee. That was the one thing I really wanted to be part of but didn't get selected for, but I did a lot when I was undergrad.
Being involved on campus kind of led me to this career and this profession. When I went off to go work for my national fraternity, part of being a consultant is that you meet with campus based professionals. When I was having conversations with those professionals on different campuses, I was asking them about their career and how they ended up where they're at. A lot of times, I was told you need to get a master’s ... that led me into looking at higher education programs and applying to different institutions. Ball State offered me a really good assistantship and a really good package for their master's program and I couldn't turn it down, so I came back here.
Q. How did you first become involved in Greek Life?
A. I was always a very involved student in high school. When I went off to college … I just couldn't find a natural fit for a [Greek] chapter, but I did join a coed honor fraternity there called Phi Sigma Pi.
They were [a national honor fraternity] but did a lot of similar things that a lot of the social Greek letter organizations do. We had bigs and littles. We had social, philanthropic and service events, as well as fundraisers.
When I transferred [to Ball State], I actually tried to get that organization started [here], but I was kind of steered to look at one of our social Greek letter organizations. That led me to Sigma Nu, and I ended up joining.
Q. You had previous positions like this at IUPUI, Stetson (Florida) and Troy (Alabama). Did you always know you wanted to come back to Ball State? When did you have that realization you wanted to come back?
A. A few years ago, the associate director position was available, and I looked into applying for it before. But, at the time, I just didn't feel like I was ready to come back [to Ball State]. I always knew it had to be when the time was right.
When this position [opened], I felt like the time had finally become right for me to come back to this institution. Looking at the leadership … I'd be serving under was a big piece of it as well. I feel like the leadership here now is going in a great direction, and I'm excited to come in and be part of that and help push us into the future.
Q. Jumping into your role here now, what led you to decide to leave IUPUI and take up the position of associate director of student life?
A. I've been telling everyone that this is home. I did my undergrad and grad here and so when this opportunity came available, I could not see myself not applying for the position. For me, this is an opportunity to get in and do great work in this community because this community made me who I am today. I had a great experience here and I feel like I've been successful in life. I wanted to come into this community and work with the students in this community to help them be successful and help them go out and make an impact and change within their communities wherever they go anywhere in life.
Q. What were your first thoughts when you found out you were getting hired?
A. I was really excited. I won't lie, I feel like there's a lot of pressure on me just because I come from this community. I'm a prodigy of this community and I want to make sure this community is successful. That pressure is making sure that we're going to thrive and we're going to move forward and progress. I have a lot of desires to see this community progress and move forward. I think I'm putting that pressure on myself but I really love this community. There's a lot of value in [Greek Life] and I want to make sure we're continuing to provide those opportunities so that students can still continue to be successful by being in a Greek letter organization.
Q. What do you hope to accomplish in your role here?
A. The best way that I look at this is breaking it down by looking at months and years to come. Right now, it's about making new connections on campus ... and reconnecting with some of those people who are still here at the institution from when I was here … Another thing is making connections with our chapters and getting to know about what their goals and desires are and how they align with the direction that we are going in with Fraternity and Sorority Life. I was just having this conversation earlier about looking at the percentage of affiliated students on this campus and … that number decreased a little bit, so I really want to work on turning that around and getting that percentage of affiliate students up.
I also want to work on leadership development. They're wanting someone to come in and figure out how we interact and engage with future leaders and how we get them trained to be the community member we want them to be. We have a lot of great leadership programs already offered in this office … Our desire is to build upstanding citizens to go out and impact and create change.
Q. What are some of your hobbies and interests?
A. I love traveling ... and so I'm a little bit of an adventure seeker. I love going to amusement parks and riding the newest, tallest, fastest roller coasters that are out there. I love music and finding different types of music … I have Shazam on my phone, so if I hear something, I'm like, ‘Oh yeah.’ I Shazam it, so I remember it and then download it. Music is a big thing for me.
I do a little bit of woodworking and restoration. I've done some projects where I've restored some furniture pieces, which is a hobby of mine. My wife and I are very big antiquers, and we like to go on random weekend adventures to flea markets and antique shops always trying to hunt for a special piece that we know would be a cool piece to our collection in our home.