Office of Student Engagement Will Offer Additional Opportunities for Learning Beyond the Classroom

Parrish Beach

When students return to campus this fall, they'll be welcomed back by the office of student engagement, a new home for the combined offices of residential life and student activities.

In Rachel Head's five years as assistant dean of residential life, she has managed the residential experience for students, overseeing all elements of the residence hall life. The office of student engagement, which she will direct, is the result of years of her research and benchmarking of comparable residential campuses and how they meet students' residential needs.

"Ninety-seven percent of our students live in the residence halls," says Head. "And the majority of student social life takes place in those residence halls."

The office of student engagement will partner the management of residential life with planning and supporting student activities. Mike Elias, currently the student activities coordinator, will serve under Head as assistant director of student engagement. In his current position, Elias supports students with "everything that falls outside of the residential experience." This includes advising student government, serving as the Greek life advisor, and coordinating large-scale events throughout the year.

This reorganization is part of an effort to "adapt to changing student needs," says Head. "Students are hungry for support and hungry to learn skills on budget management, programming, thinking outside the box, and working together outside the classroom." The additional resources of the combined office will allow the staff to fully support these experiential learning opportunities.

Elias and Head already work so closely together that many students already perceive the pair as part of one office, which should help ensure a smooth transition.

"I'm excited to provide more learning opportunities, chances for students to come in and say, 'hey I have this idea,' and for us to help them make it happen," says Elias. "These are key learning experiences outside the classroom. Taking what they're learning academically and applying it to real-world situations. This combining of offices gives us more resources to build the programs we've been hoping to build."

In addition to Head and Elias in their new roles, the office of student engagement will add an assistant director for residential communities and two live-in residential community coordinators-graduate or postgraduate students who live in the residence halls and support programming during nontraditional hours-as well as administrative support.

Both Head and Elias emphasized how the new office and additional staff would allow them to further support additional students.

"We're here to support all students," says Head. "No matter their personality, experience, or background, opportunities for leadership, engagement, and involvement exist for every student on campus, and now we have the resources to make it easier than ever for students to be empowered to take advantage of these opportunities."