The staff at the Residence Life office is working on a new curriculum that focuses on community and wellness, as well as unifying the residence halls.
Residence Life Director Jamie Van Boxel, who started in July, said his first goal is going to be to learn about Truman State University students and the Residence Life department.
“For over a year now, the Residence Life department under John Gardner, the previous director, and William Nelsen [interim director], have worked with the hall directors to shift from a community development model … to a more curricular approach,” Van Boxel said.
Van Boxel said he can’t take credit for a lot of the work that has been done to prepare for the department to move forward with the new curriculum.
He said a community development model is about putting on events for students, while a curricular approach is tied into having a framework for the entire year and contributing to Truman’s mission.
Van Boxel said the hall directors on the team spent time in July figuring out what the first eight to 10 weeks of the semester are going to look like. Van Boxel said their curriculum is only about 40% fleshed out and primarily focuses on connection building and wellness.
The other elements that will be worked into the curriculum eventually, or even as soon as this year, are academic excellence, identity and professional confidence, Van Boxel said.
“The residence life staff focus for the fall will be helping students become interconnected,” Van Boxel said. “That might look like efforts to help roommates work through challenges that come about, our residents becoming connected to all the apartment managers and all the student advisors and then growing from there.”
Wellness is another theme emerging this year. Wellness is about providing students with the resources that already exist on campus that contribute to students being academically and personally successful, Van Boxel said.
Van Boxel said all of this benefits students who live on campus for at least a year graduating at a higher rate than students who never live on campus.
He said students returning to the residence halls may notice some differences. The spontaneous programs or activities that quickly emerged will no longer occur, Van Boxel said.
“They are going to be more planful,” Van Boxel said. “Students at every residence hall, when we are going to do activities, are going to experience the same things, so whether you live in Centennial Hall or whether you live in BNB, the activities that the staff are doing are going to come from the same framework, in essence going to be the same.”
Van Boxel said the returners may notice there will be less of a focus on activities that students have to commit to by physically being present. He said Res Life is going to work at approaching students and giving them the information in other mediums, such as social media, regular newsletters, signs and unified bulletin boards.
The curricular model moves away from peers teaching peers, who are of similar age and experience, Van Boxel said, to hall directors and the Residence Life professional staff bringing forward the content. He said this approach is opposed to putting that responsibility on the student advisors.
SAs are going to focus on getting to know every one of the residents that live on campus, Van Boxel said.
Van Boxel said door decs will be different, because they realized the two to three hours it took SAs to handmake them was too much time that could be devoted to other aspects of their position.
Now Res Life will make the door decs centrally, Van Boxel said. They will be graphically designed by one of the hall directors and every resident on our entire campus is going to have a door dec that is almost the same, however, each community will have their own element that is different.
“We are approaching community development from the perspective of others who [have] come before us,” Van Boxel said. “What Truman is doing is, we are not creating the wheel, we are not doing something new. We are doing something that really is more current with best practice in the Residence Life field.”