Res Life Programs Range from Academic to Adventurous
Resident Director Kristyn Gieger, kneeling center, with a group of Fordham resident assistants doing Hurricane Sandy Habitat Relief Work in Breezy Point, N.Y.
by Jennifer Spencer
Anyone who lived in residence halls during their college years realizes that on-campus living is about much more than being close to the classroom. Living and learning side-by-side develops lifelong friendships for many students.
Fordham's residence life professionals plan literally thousands of events each year to help build a community where students can make friends, learn, and grow.
"Obviously, first and foremost, safety is our overall priority for our students," said Kimberly Russell, assistant dean of students and director of residential life. "However, building community is a really close runner up."
Fordham's Rose Hill residences alone hosted more than 1,200 programs last semester.
Events range from the academic to the adventurous: recent programs have included a visit from New York City's commissioner of small business, an excursion to a local synagogue, and a study break complete with furry animals to cuddle.
Resident assistants, student staff who live on each floor, are responsible for planning events each month in partnership with their resident directors.
At Lincoln Center's McMahon Hall, resident assistants conduct a personal interview with each student at the beginning of the year. Jenifer Campbell, director of residential life for Lincoln Center, said these interviews help her team tailor programs to student interest.
"We can be guilty of thinking we have all the answers, but I like to go to students and see what their experiences have been so we can develop programs that respond to their input," she said. Dennis Velez, resident director for upper-class students, said he constantly evaluates the programs at McMahon hall to make sure they are well attended and meeting student needs.
"I tell my team that it's not about putting on programs you want to do, it's about putting on programs that the residents will enjoy, and will get something out of," he said.
Velez recently coordinated a team of students and staff to participate in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, raising both money and awareness through on campus bake sales.
Velez, whose team also hosted the "Doggie De-Stress" event, said that successful residence life events are a mixture of educational moments and just good fun.
Dennis Velez, Resident Director at Lincoln Center, coordinated a group of students to participate in the Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk.
"Sometimes student need to spend an hour or so playing with cute animals and not worry about the stress of exams," he said.
Though building community is an objective of all events, some specialized residence halls offer more targeted academic programming.
Kristyn Gieger, resident director for Campbell Hall Residential College, supervises an Integrated Learning Community, or ILC. Fordham's ILCs are residences dedicated to intentional pursuit of the Jesuit ideals of learning in and outside the classroom.
Programming at Campbell Hall focuses on helping the juniors and seniors living there transition to the world of work, with events covering everything from resume writing to a multicultural "world tour," featuring food and culture from 12 countries.
Gieger said the programs center around three themes: finding your passion, basic career skills, and developing a Fordham "bucket list" of opportunities to pursue.
This year's programs have covered topics as broad as socioeconomic inequality, body image, and environmental sustainability. Gieger said that Campbell Hall's offerings are guided by the Jesuit commitment to education of the whole person.
"We are trying to empower students with a little more knowledge and skills before they head off into the world," she said.
Russell said that by "gathering in intentional ways," residence life staff help provide opportunities for students who might not be at ease in unfamiliar social settings to meet new people.
"People may find themselves in a spot where they want to meet new people, but just don't know how," she said. "Programming allows us an opportunity to bring together folks who might not otherwise be introduced socially or in other ways."
Living in community, building relationships, and being exposed to new experiences all contribute to the overall education of the whole person, Campbell said.
"Education, for me, takes place anywhere," she said. "There's always that teachable moment with students in the res halls."