Student LifeThe Buzz

Jason Richter: The Man with Many Jobs

(Photo courtesy of Carley McGovern) Pictured above: Richter shows off his campus-famous Pez dispenser collection.

“I majored in history, but really I majored in extracurricular activities,” says St. Ambrose Student Affairs Director Jason Richter. Richter says he joined almost every club at Mount Mercy University where he attended college, including the improv/comedy club, student government, and orientation leadership roles. 

He says this intense involvement in extracurricular activities didn’t begin until college. When he was younger, Richter liked to play baseball and ride his bike, but other than that, was very quiet. He was studious and good grades were important to him. 

Richter was born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa, but his family life wasn’t the most common. His parents divorced when he was five, and he was raised by a single mom. In addition, one of his two brothers had down syndrome. He explains that this was difficult, as his peers would often ask rude and invasive questions about his brother, “I wouldn’t say it was my happiest time in life, but I learned a lot.” 

While an orientation leader at Mount Mercy, Richter met his now wife, Tina. At the time, she was the president of the programming board–the formal planning committee–for student activities. Richter wasn’t on the board, but was involved in most of the activities anyway. He says he was always the game show host or emcee for events, just as he is at SAU. 

Making student activities a career wasn’t intentional for Richter. He majored in history, and wanted to be a history teacher. However, after one practicum class with high school students, he decided it wasn’t for him. After graduation, he worked as a hall director at St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota. When a newly hired student affairs director quit, Richter stepped into her place, and has been involved in student affairs since. 

While still Director of Student Affairs at St. Mary’s, Richter gained his reputation as the guy with many miscellaneous jobs. For an improv/comedy show, he was the emcee, and wore a dress and a sash with “Miss Silanius” on it.

(Photo courtesy of Jason Richter) Pictured above: Richter wearing the “Miss Silanius” costume at a St. Mary’s event.

After 12 years at St. Mary’s, he became the student affairs director here at SAU. Students and staff can find him all over campus: advising Campus Activities Board (CAB) and Student Government Association (SGA) meetings, hiring orientation leaders, and even lifting weights in the wellness and recreation center (WRC). 

Through this involvement, Richter has become beloved by many SAU students. Haven Hospodar, a junior accounting and finance major, says, “I think Jason is a genuine individual. He is that person you don’t know well but could trust with your life.” 

Richter says that there’s no such thing as a typical day in his life. “Most of my days kind of merge together, with work and life,” he explains. “It’s kind of a blurred line. If anything, it makes it easier for me, because I have fun no matter what I’m doing.” Richter also says his kids are all over the place as well. He tries his best to make it to whatever activities his three sons are doing, whether it be swimming, drum lessons, piano lessons, soccer, or show choir. 

Richter seems to always be having a good time, but it would be a huge understatement to say that there haven’t been struggles throughout his life. In 2012, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer. He had to do two stem cell transplants, as well as chemotherapy for two years. 

He says that this experience was difficult, but has given him a new perspective on life. “It’s kind of to appreciate everything everyday.” Richter says as long as the students, staff, and faculty are having a good time, that’s all that matters to him.

Richter has been at SAU for 14 years now, and has seen the development of CAB. He says when he first started here, each CAB member had their own individual role, and no one really worked together. He explains that this has totally changed since then, “There’s more willingness to kind of do things together as a group from a CAB perspective.” 

Richter makes CAB a fun experience for anyone who decides to participate. “He’s very personable,” Co-Vice President of CAB, Will Haugen says, “It’s easy to talk to him. He keeps things light, if you mess up, it’s not going to be the end of the world because he will figure it out.” 

Campus events have also become well-attended compared to when Richter first started at SAU. These same events didn’t draw much attention years ago. “When they got 15 people at an event, they were ecstatic.” CAB events such as Grocery BINGO and Casino Night now attract hundreds of students. 

Anyone who has been to Richter’s office before has seen the famous Pez dispenser collection. He says that he never even intended to collect them. His wife originally bought him a few Pez dispensers as a funny Valentine’s Day gift years ago.

“I unwrapped them and put them on my shelf, and people were like, oh, you collect Pez dispensers?” Students, family, and friends now go out of their way to add to Richter’s Pez dispenser collection.

While he didn’t originally want to collect them, he has grown a fondness for Pez dispensers. “It’s kind of fun, because each one has kind of a story behind it, you know, who gave it to me. That piece I kind of appreciate.” 

Richter doesn’t plan on straying from student affairs any time soon. He says it’s really the people at SAU who make his job enjoyable. “It’s the students and the faculty and the staff. I mean, realistically, if I didn’t enjoy the people I worked with, this job would be brutal. Every day I have a blast.”