At Michigan Tech we believe that every opportunity is an opportunity to learn. Which is why in 2018, the Department of Housing and Residential Life implemented a residential curriculum to reinforce the ideals of creating a 360 degree campus learning environment.
The residential housing curriculum is structured to promote well-being, learning, and mindfulness in a manner consistent throughout all of the residence halls. The residential assistants (RAs) work with seven live-in professionals to deliver both passive and active content over the fall and spring semesters. Topics range from learning communication skills, personal goal setting, and self care. According to the Associate Director of Residential Life, Alexandra Marshall, “Implementing a residential curriculum has allowed us to engage with students in a different way, helping them connect to the staff living in their building, the students in their community, as well as resources throughout campus as soon as they arrive. We want students to become prosperous, resilient, and conscientious members of the Tech community, and we hope they take what they learn with them upon graduation.”
Each week, the RAs follow a thorough engagement plan, which includes themed bulletin boards, intentional meetings and group activities. Additionally, the professional staff will meet regularly with students in need of additional assistance to ensure they are connected with the resources they need to succeed. “Having a curriculum means that we are holding ourselves accountable to giving students an education in the residence halls. It’s not just about giving students a great living experience, the curriculum means that they are learning skills for life,” says Benjamin Petrie, one of the Residence Life Coordinators.
Thus far, the RAs have completed more than 1,000 intentional conversations with the residents living in the halls. According to Anna Browne, RA of Hyrule II, “The residential curriculum, although in its early stages, has already paved the way for me to connect on a deeper level with my residents. The best example of this is the intentional conversations, which are a group of questions asked three times over the semester to check in on residents. These intentional conversations help ensure that all the questions are asked, and that the residents feel like they don’t need to hide it, whether it be about grades, financial aid, family issues, or mental health.”
The program was fully implemented this fall to all first year students and the plan is to scaffold the learning each year to reinforce the learning outcomes. Next year, the program will expand to upper class students, as well as those living in themed communities. As the program matures, Marshall plans to partner with other units on campus to better collaborate on learning outcomes. She says, “One of the challenging, but exciting parts, of the program is that it will never be done.”