​​​As a residence hall director for 11 years, James Span, Jr. popped his head into a lot of student rooms.

He could never resist a Star Trek or Harry Potter movie.

"They didn't have to be afraid I was coming in to tell them to turn the music down," says Span, who was residence hall director in Campbell Hall for seven years, then Campbell and Kesseler for four more. "I was probably coming to say, 'How are you doing? How'd that biology exam go? Did you get a bid from the sorority you wanted?'

"People don't care how much you know," he says, "until they know how much you care."

Now Span is an academic advisor, helping students navigate their course schedules, graduation requirements and all things academic from his office in Kesseler Hall.

But that's not all.

"Don't put me in a box in terms of how I can help," Span says. "I'll do more than answer questions about academics. We're not just going to talk about University Program requirements or what classes you need for your major. I'll ask, 'Why did you come to Central? How are you doing with the transition? What do you need?'

"I want students to walk away knowing, 'This guy really cares about me.'"

He does. Span talks about how welcomed he felt years ago as a college student far from home at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and how much that meant to him. Now, he passes that on.

"You're coming in to meet with a friend," he says. "This isn't just a campus. It's a home. And you're not just my 10 o'clock appointment. You're a human being."

Mr. Nice Guy loves gangster movies. He always reaches for "The Godfather" trilogy first.

Driving relaxes him. He happily slides behind the wheel of his Chrysler 300, pops open the sunroof, turns on Barry White, Al Green or Aretha Franklin and hits the open road.

Span loves bowling, plays the tuba and plans to volunteer at the animal shelter, now that he doesn't live in a residence hall 24/7.

The same calming academic advisor who eases the jitters of new freshmen knows how to soothe parents, too.

"Trust the process that you as a parent enacted," he says. "You equipped your student for this moment. You knew what to do all these years and you did it. Trust that you planted a good seed and gave them fertile soil.

"This is a relay," he says. "You ran your leg of the race, now you're passing the baton to us to assist you. In a relay everyone runs a leg and everyone wins the race.

"Your kids will be all right," Span says with a smile. "They're in good hands."