December: Meet Elizabeth Trayner

Elizabeth Trayner is the Director of Residence Life and Deputy Title IX Coordinator at Willamette University.  As Director of Residence Life she is responsible for leading a comprehensive residence life program for 1375 students living in seventeen residence halls and two apartment buildings.  She is currently leading the charge to merge Residence Life and Residential Services and develop a residential master plan.  She directly supervises a staff of eight full time professional staff members including the Director of Residential Services, Director of Rights & Responsibilities, Director of Community Education, Associate Director of Residence Life, three Area Coordinators, and an Office Coordinator.  Additionally, she indirectly supervises a Residential Services Support Specialist and 38 student staff members who serve as Community Mentors and Interns.

As Deputy Title IX Coordinator she works with a team of individuals to oversee the student-to-student sexual misconduct process.  She works on training members of the community on Willamette’s processes, updates policies and procedures, assists with the implementation of WU’s bystander intervention program (Green Dot), and monitors cases as they arise.

Social justice is a personal passion area.  She enjoys hiking and taking in the beauty of Oregon with her husband of almost four years, Jeff.  Liz is an avid Disney fan and was an Annual Passholder to Disneyland for 12 years.  She loves to travel and was able to experience Japan for the first time this past summer through an Administrative Exchange Program with Tokyo International University.

Professional Journey

I began my journey as a Student Affairs professional as a Resident Assistant at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD. I continued in that position for 3 ½ years until I finished my undergraduate degree in Music Education and a position opened up for me to become a Hall Director as a mid-year hire.  I pursued a Master of Music in Vocal Performance with every intention to begin teaching music after I graduated.

A few days before I was heading to the Osh Kosh Placement Exchange (OPE) to recruit Hall Directors for the following year, I was having lunch with my former supervisor, Elizabeth Harder.  She asked me why I wasn’t applying for jobs in higher education while I was at the conference.  I explained that I was going for recruiting purposes and was still planning on applying for music positions.  She again asked me why I wasn’t applying for jobs in higher education and it was at that point I realized that I loved my job even more than I realized. 

I put together a portfolio and prepared my cover letter and resume, which ended up landing me a job at California State University, Chico as a Resident Director.  Through my experience at Chico, I was able to get involved with the Western Association of College and University Housing Officers (WACUHO), an organization that quickly became my professional home.  After my first year, the department was reorganized and became a Residence Community Coordinator.  The reorg meant that I was now supervising a full time, masters-level professional, and I took on an additional building to oversee.  I had 900 cases of conduct for 425 students and soon realized that while I enjoyed conduct, I didn’t enjoy conduct THAT much.

It was now time to look for another job and consider what was important to me in my next position.  I found my way to Occidental College as an Area Coordinator and Women’s Center Advisor.  Being at a small, private liberal arts college afforded me many opportunities to wear many hats and gain a wide variety of experiences.  I also decided it was time to pursue a doctorate and was accepted into the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California.  After a little over a year of coursework, I had to make the tough decision to leave the program due to personal circumstances.

After four years at Oxy, I felt it was time to move on to the next opportunity.  A position as the training and selection coordinator opened up at the University of Southern California.  It seemed as though the position description was written just for me because it brought together two of my favorite parts of my job and allowed me to stay in Los Angeles.  After a year I was able to add another passion area to my responsibilities as I took on several diversity initiatives for our office.  I also decided it was time to finish up the doctoral program I had started several years prior. 

With the completion of my doctorate on the horizon and six years on the job at USC, it was again time for a job search.  That’s when I found the position at Willamette University.  I knew from my time at Oxy that small private liberal arts institutions were a great place to connect with the community in ways that aren’t possible at large institutions.  I found my way back to Oregon, where I lived in middle school, and Willamette University.  Serving as Director of Residence Life and Deputy Title IX Coordinator has been both challenging and rewarding.  I work with an incredible team, both within my own office, as well as across the university.  I had no idea when I got hired at Willamette how much Title IX would end up being a part of my day to day work.  It has been an incredible journey being on a team that has been updating policy, getting people trained, making changes to procedures – all to raise the level of reporting of sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and stalking.  Simultaneously, we’re working to reduce the number of incidents occurring on campus through bystander intervention and our Green Dot program.  While it’s certainly not perfect, it’s incredible to see a culture shift happen right in front of your very eyes!  My current focus is on the development of  a residential master plan.  I’m excited to see what the future holds for me!


Here’s a couple pieces of advice I would like to offer to women (and to myself!):

  1. Don’t apologize for things you shouldn’t need to apologize for.  Women have been taught to apologize for everything and all too often we end up saying “I’m sorry” even when it isn’t really warranted.  This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take responsibility for our actions.  There are definitely times when we SHOULD apologize.  I’m just talking about all the times we apologize when we haven’t done anything worthy of the apology.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask to be compensated appropriately.  Women are still making $.78 on the dollar and there are many theories about why this is the case.  One of my personal theories is that we don’t always advocate for ourselves, even when a pay increase is warranted.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a pay raise, a title change, or other benefits that may be a bit more creative in nature, particularly if you’re taking on new responsibilities or negotiating a new job.

Connect with Leaders

Networking with women, non-binary, and trans leaders in the state of Oregon will enhance your professional experience. We look forward to creating opportunities to meet, connect and develop together.

Engage in Professional Development

Participate in opportunities for professional growth through educational programs that are provided by our campus contact network right on your campus, in your region or at a state wide gathering. The focus is on providing you with the leadership skills and mentoring necessary to lead.

Lead Change in Higher Education

Higher education in the state of Oregon provides a dynamic environment where women, non-binary, and trans people can impact change. Whether in the community college, 4-year institution, public, or private, we want you to be a part of shaping the future of higher education by empowering and affirming your leadership abilities.