The new semester has brought changes for Residential Life as the office introduces new programs to contribute to the community environment on campus. These changes, after several years of consideration, will predominantly affect first years, their residential mentors and faculty advisors.
“You get to branch out and meet newcomers,” said Chaz Davis, a resident advisor. “It speeds up the process of forming that close community.”
The Residential Life student staff is comprised of 56 members. The members of the student staff are assigned as needed, and class size can affect their placement. This year, all student staff were required to attend first-year events such as Playfair in order to give new students the opportunity to meet those with whom they might not interact otherwise, like RAs who attend to upperclassmen.
These relationships give first years a broader community to reach out to. This development is a change from last year, when first years were predominantly aided by their RMs and the Orientation Team. Given the effect the changes have had on New Student Orientation, Campus and Community Involvement has been heavily involved with planning since the end of the last school year. The shift has also allowed the Residential Life office more time to give students their rooming assignments, and because students receive their rooms and roommate assignments more efficiently, they have more opportunities to contact and interact with students prior to arriving at the university.
“I am more than willing to get out there and interact with [first years],” said Eric Booker, a resident advisor. “We are a comfort for them.”
For the past several years, most students entering the university favor majors including computer science, engineering, physics, pre-med, teacher preparation and music.
In the old system, students were divided by their projected major and assigned a faculty advisor who best suited their interests. While this system received a strong positive response from students within specific disciplines, students who were placed more generally did not respond as strongly. The new system of advising seeks to help that strong positive response become more widespread. It houses students based on their compatibility quizzes, as well as particular demographics the university maintains on each hall in order to encourage greater diversity within halls. While general halls are not being assigned specific majors, the HOPE hall and Entrepreneurial hall are still active. The Residential Life office hopes that the new initiative will encourage more perspectives on the same subject.
“It is very cool to hear these discussions,” said Melissa Flowers, assistant director for residential education. “Our former systems were not really allowing for that diversity of academic thought, and we are really excited to see how that plays out in our academic community.”
The university is hopeful the new system for housing and advising students will contribute to a better environment and allow students to get in touch more with advisors who will most effectively aid them on their current course. The new process will ideally provide first years with a wider network, and the effects of the new system will be better known in the coming years.
“I don’t see us returning to the old way,” Flowers said. “But we are certainly open to changing the process and eager to see how it plays out.”