An eye toward concrete action: Translating the Office of Student Life’s new mission

The glass walls at the top of the Paresky stairs, formerly emblazoned with the words “Campus Life,” now proudly bear a new title: “Student Life.” The office has been reorganized, and new faces now call the space home. These changes underscore the office’s new mission statement; more than just organizing housing, Student Life’s main role will be educating student leaders and improving student leadership across campus. This shift in message is a positive change, as it reaches closer towards what “student life” at the College really is. We are excited to see this new message put to action.

Student Life has already begun to implement its new message in constructive ways. The position of interim director for student involvement was created and filled by Ben Lamb, who immediately reached out to the heads of student clubs and organizations over the summer. Lamb’s role, aimed at helping student leaders to overcome any challenges they face and to learn from their experiences, is an incredibly constructive addition to the Office of Student Life. We commend Student Life for the creation of the position – and for the hiring of Lamb, whose involvement in the web of campus organizations is already tangible.
Yet, the name “Student Life” is very broad; many people and groups at the College, such as the Multicultural Center, Psychological Counseling Services and College Council, are already helping students create and improve their lives outside the classroom. It is now Student Life’s job to help students understand and embrace the office as a new resource by continuing to elucidate exactly what it has to offer. Pairing the larger intentions articulated in the mission statement with the concrete ways those intentions can be realized will ensure that students fully understand what these changes are all about, why they can be beneficial and how they can be implemented.

In order to effectively share the concrete ways its message can be fulfilled with students – and to further involve students in the process, an aim the office has already articulated – Student Life should make available an explicit list of services offered. This list could explain the exact reasons students should seek the help of Student Life and how Student Life can be an aid to current or upcoming student leaders. Requesting that students share their views and aiming for organic growth is an excellent place to start, and the potentially fruitful avenue of leadership training is already open and will be a part of the office’s programming going forward. But the office can offer more than that from the outset. To that effect, we hope that the the office can become a sort of expert on student groups of both the past and present; it can provide institutional memory for what clubs have done in previous years, it can educate current club leaders about what other clubs are doing and it can encourage dialogue between groups.

Another important step in aiding student leaders – and all students – might be to make already existing student clubs and organizations more accessible. Surprisingly, there is no prominent place on campus where students can find an up to date list of student clubs, along with their descriptions, meeting times and information about whom interested students should contact with questions. We encourage Student Life to create this currently non-existent clubs database so that we can all be on the same page when it comes to the paths towards leadership and involvement available for students. Perhaps Willipedia – a powerful but as-of-yet underused resource – can also be at least in part brought under the wing of Student Life, again in an effort to educate students on the many ways they can enhance their lives outside of class.

The office has also articulated that it intends to reach out to all students around campus, whether or not they are leaders. To do this, Student Life should take advantage of the space its new poster policy has created on the walls of Paresky and advertise its list of resources as it evolves. Although Lamb made student leaders aware of some of the changes to the office over the summer, many students still do not know about the differences between Campus Life and Student Life. Many students may not frequent the second floor of Paresky, and in turn they may not see the new Student Life insignia or the office’s new setup or be aware that it is a very different place than it was as the Office of Campus Life. Student Life can change this lack of information by broadening its outreach through posters, as well as e-mail, the Daily Messages, WSO and other, more creative means. This will guarantee that the office not only offers help to current student leaders, but also makes itself openly available to potential leaders.

Exciting things are happening in the Office of Student Life this year. It is now Student Life’s responsibility to plan concrete ways to make its new mission manifest on campus. We see great potential behind those broad glass walls; we hope that potential can now be channeled into real improvements to the student experience.