Larissa Buster applied as a residence assistant during her senior year at Wayne State College. That decision led her to a career in higher education and residence life.
The Lincoln, Neb. native, who majored in family and consumer science, had planned on becoming a teacher. She then explored the possibility of becoming a counselor.
“Within my time of being an RA, I fell in love with Res Life,” Larissa said. “Talking with the supervisors I had at the time, he told me I could go into student affairs. I was unaware of that.”
And it just so happened that Wayne State had a program for it.
After graduating with her master’s degree in student affairs and higher education counseling, Larissa worked for two years as a hall director at her alma mater before deciding to move closer to home. She found a position at College of Saint Mary.
“I fell in love with moving into a small, private Catholic institution from a public state school that has open enrollment. Vastly different qualities there,” she said. “It was a cool, different opportunity to take on.”
Larissa started as the Lozier Hall director in 2017. She was then promoted to assistant director of Residence Life and moved into Madonna Hall. She also served as the health coordinator. In 2020, she transitioned to the role of director of residence life.
“It was different. CSM has this way of bringing people together. It has this culture of being welcoming and inclusive,” Larissa said. “The students are fantastic. They have such energy and excitement for what they do, I was just excited to be working with them.”
Larissa knows she can make an impact as a staff member who interacts with students every day. While a student is on campus to get a degree and learn from the faculty, staff help round out the student holistically.
“The way I think about it is the faculty get them as a student in the classroom, but I get them in life,” Larissa said. “I get to help them become the adult and the woman they want to be because I see them when they’re not in the classroom.”
Sometimes that means teaching life skills, like paying a bill or cashing a check.
“I get to impact how they’re going to be as a person once they leave here, not just how they’re going to be academically as a professional when they leave here,” she said.
Not only is Larissa a member of CSM’s staff, but she’s also a student. Larissa is currently working on her doctorate in educational leadership.
“I wanted to go back to school because I found that I had this desire for lifelong learning that I didn’t know I truly had until I got to CSM,” she said. “I think that CSM has produced inside me the necessity to continue to develop professionally.”
CSM has become an integral part of Larissa’s life. She loves living and working on campus. Much of that she attributes to the people she works with every day.
“It’s also because the mission and values align nicely with how I live my life,” she said. “I love being at an institution where I can show up authentically as myself every day. I know I’m supported in whatever space I go into with whomever I’m meeting with. It is an environment that is challenging me, progressing me forward, and I’m not going to leave here staying exactly as I was back in 2017. I’ve grown so much and continue to grow because that’s what we value here.”
When she’s not on campus or in the classroom, Larissa enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She attends Zumba and Bar classes and she likes diamond painting. She is also on a mission to find the best “flights” in Omaha, such as pancakes, drinks and desserts.