Truman State University’s Residence Life has been implementing a new curriculum this semester that has more structure to try to enhance the resident experience.
This curriculum is a step away from the old model of ResLife that had goals set out for a semester as a whole and left the implementation of these goals up to student advisers. ResLife has specific ideas and goals it wants to express to residents, and these will now be shared throughout all of the residence halls at the same time instead of being at the discretion of the student advisers.
“There’s a movement within residence life across the nation to examine how we interact with residents and how we develop the kind of experiences and learning that we want to see all students having while they’re living in the residence halls,” Zac Burden, coordinator for Residence Life, said. “A lot of universities have been looking into this as a more successful way for there to be value in a residence life experience.”
ResLife has identified five core values that it wants to express through the curriculum, which are connection, wellness, identity, professional competence and academic excellence. Of those five, only the first two, connection and wellness, have been implemented so far, and the other three values will be implemented next year. The connection aspect has been seen through several student advisers taking their residents to activities around campus together, and wellness can be seen in the sleep hygiene bulletin boards put up in all of the residence halls.
The reason the entire curriculum is not being implemented all at once and is instead beginning in phases is to allow ResLife to reflect on what it has done and make changes if necessary, Burden said. In May and June 2020, hall directors and ResLife members involved with the curriculum will discuss what they want to see in the curriculum next year. Residents will be surveyed later in the process of implementing the curriculum to measure its success.
The majority of the hall directors are new to their positions at Truman, but Stephanie Dunton, Centennial Hall director, said the transition has been warm and exciting. While the hall directors are new, they have experience from their time in college, as well as the training provided from ResLife.
“In some ways our implementation has been hindered by having staff turnover, but we will be in a better spot in spring when we have more consistency,” Jamie Van Boxel, director of Residence Life, said. “Next year we will have both consistency as well as experience with our staff.”
ResLife has gotten their ideas for the curriculum through research that has been done at the University of Delaware and the Institute on the Curricular Approach, Burden said. The ICA hosts a yearly conference that connects those who have already implemented the curricular model with those who are thinking of or just beginning to implement it. The ideas that have been learned from these sources came together through the University Assessment Committee, which is comprised of members of ResLife, to create Truman’s ResLife curriculum. The hope is that this curriculum will create a more engaged experience for the students who live in the residence halls.