The University of West Georgia’s Department of Housing and Residence Life (HRL) is introducing new initiatives to improve its on-campus community and retention rates.
The university experienced record-breaking enrollment numbers by admitting the largest freshman class ever in UWG history for the fall 2015 semester. With these developments, HRL spent all summer making changes to the Res-Life program to ensure that incoming first year and returning students will have a great on-campus experience.
“Our mission is to provide comfortable housing and an environment that allows students to succeed to their fullest potential,” said Steve Whitlock, Director of HRL.
The department began making changes to their Res-Life program in response to on-campus housing retention rates dropping the last two years. Over the summer, they put together a team consisting of professional and student staff members to conduct surveys on why students were not returning to live on campus.
“We saw our own retention of students living on campus starting to dip within the last two summers,” said Whitlock. “We made an effort to call all 1400 students who were not returning to campus to find out the reasons why they were not returning to campus.”
The survey showed that one of the top reasons students were not returning to live on campus was due to the lack of community and interaction with their resident assistants and peers on their hall. Students also voiced concerns with security of the residence halls, noise complaints, cleanliness and the quality of food on campus.
“All these changes that we are making are in the voices of the students,” said Whitlock. “We listened to the spirit of the voices of the students who said this is what we loved about living on campus and this is what didn’t like while living on campus.”
One of the major changes in HRL was the addition of four new full time Residence Life coordinators to supervise graduate and undergraduate staff. These additions were made to better address the demand and guidance students need to have a successful college career.
“We recognized that there needed to be a greater attention and availability in our halls. A graduate student can only allocate 20 hours a week due to their academic commitments, so there was a void in command.”
Other changes to the department included the installation of security camera over the entire campus, the introduction of a safety patrol program that will patrol the residence halls at night and a new programming model that will require more time and connection with residential students.
“I am extremely proud of the new programming model that will allow a more direct connection with the RA and residents,” Whitlock said. “We are trying to connect with our students better so that we can better tailor our services.”
Whitlock’s expectation and goal this year is to ensure that the department uphold its three core values to “impact, lead and serve.” He believes that if these values are upheld, the campus community, retention and student satisfaction will increase on campus. Changes to the department serves as a stepping-stone to a better on-campus environment.
“What I would like to see at the end of the year is for the student body unanimously deciding that they want to live on campus to the point where I have no more student spaces on campus.”