Laura De Veau has an unusual perspective on Boston University — one that she cultivated from inside the head of Rhett the Terrier.
De Veau (COM’89, SED’95), assistant director of residence life, began her career as the University mascot during her sophomore year. For nearly three years, she traveled with BU sports teams, visiting the NCAA tournament once with the men’s basketball team and traveling to England with the football team when it played Richmond University in London.
More than 15 years after graduation, she’s still Rhett to some people on campus. “Once a mascot, always a mascot,” she says. “It will never go away.”
The spirit of adventure that led her to put on the Terrier costume 20 years ago — and the sense of humor that kept her cheering through sports events, bookstore appearances, and an ill-fated attempt at ice skating in the costume — have stayed with De Veau as well and have brought her back to BU repeatedly throughout her career. Since graduating, she’s worked as an assistant director of marketing in the athletics department and a hall director in residence life and also held jobs in student affairs at Babson College and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She’s also worked periodically as a stand-up comic around Boston and serves on the American Council of Higher Education women’s council for the region.
She says that while her years of experience in higher education have certainly provided her with a wealth of knowledge about BU, working at different institutions was even more important because she gained perspective on what goes into making a successful higher education experience: a mix of the right people, good programs, and a highly contagious level of enthusiasm.
“Students can tell that I really enjoy what I do,” De Veau says, “and ultimately that’s what makes them responsive.”
In her current position — which she’s held since 2005 — De Veau hires, trains, and evaluates the ResLife staff, comprising 270 resident assistants and full-time employees. She runs the intensive RA training sessions in August, supervises the selection process throughout the second semester, oversees the Wellness operation, and works with a range of other offices to make sure students have access to every possible resource. She also supervises the faculty-in-residence program, which helps students and faculty build connections by housing professors in University residence halls. Like many other ResLife staffers, De Veau also maintains her own connection to the community by living on campus; she and her husband, Shawn (LAW’94), the dean of students at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., live in a dormitory on Bay State Road. “I think the halls are a pretty dynamic place to be,” she says.
After eight years in ResLife and two decades on campus, De Veau is widely known around the University for her energetic RA training sessions, her performance at the Reunion Weekend comedy show each spring, and — to those in the know — her stint as Rhett. Although she admits that some people would call her a diva, she says her “big personality” helps students feel she’s approachable, which is essential, since she’s responsible for more than 200 student employees. She does sometimes enjoy the spotlight, she says, but she gets the most satisfaction from students knowing their floormates’ names, not her own.
“I don’t care if they know who I am or what I do,” she says. “I love it when I’m in a residence hall and hear someone say, ‘I love living here,’ or ‘I’m going to an RHA event,’ or ‘My RA’s a great person.’ That means that something I’m doing is going well.”
Jessica Ullian can be reached at email@example.com.