What “Froshmores” On Campus Can Teach Us About Resident Engagement

From my perspective at Roompact, I get to work with many different institutions all across the country. One of the unique perspectives this affords me is the ability to more frequently pick up on trends occurring than others may. In particular, I’ve been hearing that residence life staff have been encountering residents with unique needs and situations that look remarkably different than they have in the past. Some have described this as akin to having “two first year classes” at the same time, due to many of the rising sophomores being physically on campus for the first time.

A new episode of the Student Affairs NOW podcast dropped yesterday on the topic of “Froshmores” — this unique circumstance of having two class years of students on campus for the first time as the same time. This topic immediately resonated with me. I’ve posted the entire episode below, but wanted to highlight a few stand out quotes:

COVID showed us that “higher education writ large and first year experience professionals had been using sense of place as a crutch or shield for community and belongingness and sense of purpose.”

Jennifer R. Keup

This quote struck me almost immediately upon hearing it. As Keup continues, institutions that had a clear sense of purpose and identity, not reliant on place, seemed to fare better through this disruption. I think the same holds true of residence life departments and how they define their learning communities. In my own experience, those that had a sense of community rooted in a clear purpose often fared better in working with students. Those that had an over-reliance on programming struggled. Programming is so often reliant on a physical place, or even a time-dependent virtual space. Departments with multiple engagement strategies, beyond just a program, often seemed to fare better. (And, not coincidentally, diversifying engagement is also one of the essential elements of a curricular approach.)

“What people want is to be part of communities and they keep getting put in audiences and that’s causing a great deal of pain.”

Jennifer R. Keup, paraphrasing a tweet she came across

Resident engagement also goes beyond the communication/broadcasting of information. I often felt like some campuses were using technology to try to virtually replicate their physical equivalents exactly. These tools, or these virtual spaces, have different affordances–or opportunities for interaction. Rather than “replicate,” I think we would be better served to “re-envision.”

“Because I think it was so tempting to just turn all of our student engagement tools into just cranking out information and that’s when students hit mute. And so so to be able to still have a sense of humor, to still trust students with the keys, to our accounts, and to still be able to do some of those things that, you know, we want to keep people engaged and listening and not just reciting things. And that was, that’s been such a tension point.”

Brian MacConald

Check out the full Student Affairs NOW episode…

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