Resident Hall director forges path to success

Justavian Tillman, 25, a graduate student and Hall Director in McLean Hall. “I have truly enjoyed my experience as Hall Director of McLean, I know I’ve learned a lot in this roll and am truly glad to have interactions and giving wisdom to my students but also to learn from my students as well. My time here will help me in my next path with student affairs”, Tillman.

Mark Webster

Even as a child growing up in the small town of Bruce, Mississippi, Justavian Tillman said he knew everything was shaped against his odds. 

From being a first generation college student to now pursuing his master’s degree in education with an emphasis in student affairs in higher education, Tillman has still managed to make his mark on the Hill.

Growing up, Tillman said he thought his family was the richest black family in Bruce because his grandmother provided everything he needed. It was not until his senior year of high school that he slowly started to realize he was from a lower-class family that benefited from welfare and food stamps.

“I realized this point when I worked so hard to maintain and graduate with a 4.0 GPA and could not be rewarded with a car,” Tillman said. “My grandmother taught me the true meaning of hard work and how to make ends meet.”

Tillman said his grandmother was able to provide for him despite struggling to pay the bills monthly. His grandmother’s constant prayer and deep faith allowed her to send him to college, Tillman said. She believed that he could prosper from education. 

Tillman believes his grandmother helped shape him into the individual he is today. He said she always referenced Bible readings, specifically Isaiah 40:31.

Tillman currently works for Housing and Residence Life as a residence hall director for Bates-Runner and McLean Halls. He said he sits at the desk in his office, checks emails and numerous requests from residents and still finds a way to continue to be an influence for the community at WKU. 

Tillman is no stranger to success, graduating from the University of Mississippi in 2016 as one of the graduating class’ hall of fame top 10 students. He said the transition from his undergraduate program to WKU hasn’t been a problem.

‘’I had to learn what it truly meant to work with and for college students,” Tillman said. “I was able to reflect on the way that my mentors helped me succeed as I matriculated at my previous institution.”

The transition allowed Tillman to embark on new adventures and has allowed him to challenge himself in ways he feels will only make him better. As an African-American hall director, Tillman said his goal is to instill phenomenal leadership qualities in all of the minority residents he encounters.

“As an undergraduate student, my involvement helped solidify my career goals,” Tillman said. “Knowing the challenges that I faced in undergraduate, it has become my goal to help my students not make some of the same mistakes that I made. I want to see people live out their dream.”

Senior administrative resident assistant Morgan Bowling said working for Tillman has been a great experience for her that she plans to utilize for the remainder of her time at WKU.

“This is my first year working with him,” Bowling said. “He’s been really great with me transitioning into a brand new position in housing and working out all the bugs that have come with it. He holds us to a high standard and expects the best out of all his staff members, and he still wants us to have fun and enjoy work.”

As well as being hall director, Tillman advises several student-run organizations, including the Black Graduate Student Association, Building Men of Worth and a new organization called Culturally Suited. The organization allows individuals to showcase their fashion style. Tillman said the group’s goal is to educate each other on fashion while giving its members the autonomy to dress using their preferred styles.

Tillman said he meets no stranger on the Hill.

Senior Tyra Chatman said Tillman is the African-American male WKU needed to continue to uplift minorities from all types of backgrounds.

“Justavian is the kind of guy that I look up to in so many ways,” Chatman said. “He brings that aspect of business, but he’s also someone I can call my friend, and I know whenever I need him, I can always call.”


Features reporter Mark Webster Jr. can be reached at 270-745-6291 and mark.webst[email protected] Follow him on social media at @mwebster68.