Donna McGalliard says setting foot on campus for the first day of her new job felt “super surreal.” That’s because she now works in a building just steps away from the residence hall she called home as an NC State student more than 25 years ago.
“I’m really excited to be part of the Wolfpack family again,” says McGalliard, NC State’s new executive director of University Housing. “I walked into the Onboarding Center on my first day and felt like a tourist. It was really bizarre to see my maiden name come up on the computer screen. I remember thinking ‘Wow. That’s a full-circle moment.’ And I’ve felt that way every single day since.”
A native of Monroe, North Carolina, McGalliard says her NC State roots run deep. As a student here, she became involved in residence life as a resident adviser and lived in Metcalf Hall for all four of her undergraduate years.
After leaving NC State to earn her master’s and doctoral degrees — and holding positions at UNC Greensboro, Catawba College and Wake Forest University — McGalliard landed back at the university in March.
She hit the ground running, taking time to get to know her staff, filling her calendar with meetings and visiting every single residence hall at the university. As she settles into her new position and relocates her family to Raleigh, she has high hopes for what’s next.
Read on to learn more about McGalliard and her winding road home.
What brought you to NC State the first time, as a student?
My great-uncle, Bill Lamm, is a past president of the NC State Alumni Association. He and my great-aunt Melda have always had NC State paraphernalia in their homes, and so from a very young age, I’ve always seen the red and white of NC State everywhere. When we were growing up, they were kind of like a third set of grandparents to me and my sister, and we would go to NC State football and basketball games together. And so when I was thinking about going to college, it was a natural fit.
What sparked your interest in housing?
I was an upper-class adviser during my sophomore year, then an RA for my junior and senior years. I really got to know the housing staff, and I’m still connected to several of them. I had opportunities to plan all kinds of great programs, especially as a senior RA, which meant I was over here in this office in Pullen about once a month. I thought I wanted to have a job in communications, which was my major, and I really loved my College of Humanities and Social Sciences experience. But then I realized how much I enjoyed working in residence life and decided to pursue that as a career.
Where did you go after you graduated from NC State?
I was accepted to UNC Greensboro for my master’s degree. I worked as a hall director at Greensboro College while I was going to school at UNCG. I worked in the vice chancellor for student affairs office while at UNCG and got a really good taste for what the field was all about.
I knew that I eventually wanted to be in administration, so I determined right after my master’s program to go straight into my doctorate. I went to Florida State and finished the coursework within about two and a half years. But I decided Florida was a little too far from my family and ended up writing my dissertation back in North Carolina. I became the director of residence life at Catawba College and worked on my dissertation while working full time there.
Then an opportunity came up at Wake Forest a few years later. I started at Wake Forest as associate director for residence life and earned my doctorate of education by the time I was 30, which was a big goal of mine. I had multiple opportunities for professional growth and more responsibility there and eventually served Wake Forest for 18 years.
So, what happened when the housing director position came open at NC State?
I had people from so many different facets of my life contacting me about the job, but I was super happy at Wake Forest. So I reached out to some mentors and talked with my supervisor, who is a pillar in the field, and asked her what she thought. She encouraged me to give it a shot. Wake Forest is a wonderful school with an excellent housing program. It was a tough decision, but I eventually ended my tenure there as associate vice president for campus life and dean of residence life and housing to return to my alma mater.
How did it feel to return to NC State after all those years?
I came back for the interview day, and everything just kind of fell into place. I knew that I would really miss Wake Forest and the people there, but there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by here that I don’t also feel the excitement of being at a place I love, and learning about how things are done here and the possibilities that exist for the future.
What’s your impression of campus now?
It’s interesting because there are certainly a lot of changes, but there’s also a lot of familiarity. It still feels like home. When I walk around campus now, I see buildings where they didn’t exist before (Student Health) and see green spaces where they used to exist (Harrelson Hall), but mostly I see a place that is committed to the success of students. It is evident in the conversations with the people I’ve met and the good works I’ve learned about so far. I look forward to contributing to such important and exciting work.
What do you hope to accomplish in your new position?
I have a true investment in ensuring that what we do in housing makes a positive, lasting impact on not only current, but future Wolfpackers. Helping students feel like they belong to the Wolfpack family is really important. Academics is obviously their primary purpose for being here, but a really close second is the experience they have outside the classroom and in their residential environment. I have an amazing staff here, and they all work hard to ensure that our residents are safe and well and getting involved and engaged. I’m very much looking forward to learning more about current housing traditions and yet, it’s exciting to think about working with my team to discover new and innovative ways we can impact future residents of Wolfpack country.