Von Stange encourages students to be all they can be.
Stange isn’t an Army recruiter: he’s the director of Residence Services. And he believes that residence halls offer students the opportunity to explore many sides of the college experience, in handy proximity to the place they call home.
“In the residence halls, students can learn, have fun, and even earn some money to help pay for their education,” he says.
Many first-year students cite the residence halls as a great place to make friends. Resident assistants (RAs) gather students early and often, for activities as spontaneous as watching a DVD and eating popcorn to more organized events like a karaoke night. Some of these events are planned by residence hall student government groups, and students find that involvement in residence hall government or ARH (Associated Residence Halls—the overarching governing organization for all residence halls) is a great way to get to know others.
James Russell, a sophomore from Ames, Iowa, lived in Rienow his first year.
“Some people were good at just knocking on doors and introducing themselves,” he remembers. “But that’s not natural for me.”
While he made good friends last year, this year Russell decided to branch out. He was elected president of Associated Daum, his residence hall’s governing body.
“I’ve enjoyed my leadership role and really widened my social circle,” he says. “It’s been a good way for me to meet people.”
Sean Hesler, the manager of Residence Life programs at the University, stresses that there are roles for every kind of person, and that all can enhance a student’s college experience.
“In addition to serving on hall association executive boards, which are elected positions, we’re always excited to have other students help plan and implement events,” he says. Activities this year included the Daum Prom; a World Series of Poker tournament (no money changed hands—students played for prizes); and Iowa Idol, which drew 300 to 400 students and offered a first-place award of a $300 travel voucher. Students also organized fund-raisers, such as Share the Love carnation sales for tsunami relief and drives to fill and mail care packages to soldiers abroad.
While activities such as these are undoubtedly fun and good ways to socialize, Hesler sees additional value for participants.
“They gain social skills, learn about planning, and get insight into the inner workings of a large institution,” he says. “I love that ‘Aha!’ moment, when you can almost see the light bulb turn on as a student figures out something that formerly was confusing. Fortunately, I get to see that a lot.”
In addition to learning through activities, students also have an opportunity to earn money in the residence halls. There are about 400 to 500 part-time student jobs in residence halls, including in food services, according to Shannon Bartlett, manager of human resources for UI Residence Services. Bartlett and other staff members encourage students to explore the advantages of “working where you live” at job fairs in the fall. Brochures on residence hall employment are available at Orientation and in the Housing Office, and information and student employment applications are online at http://housing.uiowa.edu.
“These jobs have lots of benefits,” she says. “They give you a chance to get to meet people, you can learn more about your residence hall, and the pay is comparable to other campus jobs. Students generally can change their work schedule each semester as their academic schedule changes, and at some jobs, such as the front desk and fitness center, you can even study when things are slow. And if you don’t live in the same hall in which you work, Cambus delivers you right to the front door.”
Erin Krempges, a sophomore from Independence, Iowa, enjoys her Burge front desk job. She works 24 hours every two weeks.
“It’s a convenient and safe place to work,” she says. “I sort mail, answer questions from students and visitors, and can even get some homework done on the 4 to 8 a.m. shift. I’ve learned about upcoming activities and have gotten to know the RAs and lots of other people. I come back from work feeling good.”
While desk jobs are the most sought-after, James Russell says that his stint in Burge food service has worked well for him.
“Some people might think it’s beneath them,” he says, “but the pay is competitive, everyone’s nice, and I work three-hour shifts. They fit into my schedule and I always say the first three hours on any job goes fastest. And I’ve met almost as many friends through my job as I have through hall government.”
Making friends is an important side effect of both activities and jobs in the residence halls. And feeling good about the place where you work, play, and live can have long-lasting effects.
“Research shows that students who get involved on campus have greater satisfaction with their college experience,” Sean Hesler says. “They have more fun, but they also get more out of it academically and are more likely to graduate.”
By Linzee Kull McCray