July 21, 2008

Housing creates education and outreach division

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- What improves the academic performance of university students and increases the odds they’ll complete their degrees? According to a number of studies, the secret is living in campus housing. With student success as top priority, University Housing at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has created a new education and outreach division.

Elizabeth A. Scally is associate director of education and outreach for University Housing. The division’s focus is on Living Learning Communities, the Faculty Associates Program, Freshman Interest Groups, the Residential College, peer mentors, and leadership development along with programming, conference services and development.

“Basically, we’re taking the two cornerstones of University Housing -- academic success and personal development -- and concentrating our resources to make sure our programs and services give students the maximum benefit,” Scally said.

An academic initiatives pilot program last year paired graduate students with English 101 students, providing a little extra mentoring. The early student services program was such a success it’ll return for the 2008-2009 school year. Map Works is new this year. It’s a computerized benchmarking program allowing students to offer their input in identifying issues and concerns they face and helping University Housing determine how to best help.

“We’re really trying to break down the lines between academics and student life,” Scally said. “It all works together.”

Faculty and staff are another critical part of the picture, Scally said.

“We have 86 faculty associates. Our faculty and staff really help our students succeed,” Scally said.

In Living Learning Communities, students with common interests are together in residence hall communities, giving them the chance to network, lean on one another, and enjoy interaction with campus faculty and staff. A wide variety of SIUC academic majors offer eligible students a chance to live together in specified wings or floors.

Freshman Interest Groups bring freshmen of like career interests together in groups of 10 to 20, living on the same floor and taking two or three classes together. It’s great for mutual support and camaraderie. Agriculture offers the option for the first time this fall while the College of Liberal Arts has added floors to keep up with student requests.

Residential Colleges are a type of Living Learning Community where a college may require students to live in a specific area. For instance, engineering students can live in halls restricted to engineering students this fall.

Saluki mentors are also invaluable for those living in University Housing, Scally said. While resident assistants play very important roles for students living in their new homes away from home, they also have some disciplinary duties whereas the mentors don’t. Mentors are often the go-to people when homesickness hits or other concerns arise.

Through special programs, leadership development activities and the Living Learning Communities, University Housing along with faculty and staff, is providing the support that helps SIU students succeed, Scally said. For more information about SIUC University Housing, look online at www.siuc.edu or e-mail housing@siu.edu.