One of the most challenging jobs on- and off-campus has got to be director of residence life activities and its many title variations. It sounds like lots of fun and probably is when done right, but think of the challenges here – Wrangle up college students to participate in activities against a backdrop of toga parties, sporting events, tailgate parties, classes, labs, after-parties, jobs, internships, and sometimes they go to parties. A lay-person might think the best solution is to just have another party, but there are 3 distinct challenges with that idea: 1 – parties are expensive, 2 – parties are messy, and 3 – they do not achieve anything substantial at the end of the day (or night)… and the challenge ensues.
Transitioning to independence
The primary goals of residence life professionals according to Selected Works is to “increase student retention and graduation rates [and] foster student learning,” in addition to transitioning young adults into independent (or at least quasi-independent) college life, integration of students into the on-campus social infrastructure, and diversify the college experience, so traditional parties are just not going to cut it. Hence programming was born, but with all of the distractions surrounding the college experience keeping students engaged each year is an ever evolving problem. Programming was pretty standardized for a long time, with many of the same types of games and social gatherings repeated year after year, but todays college students have incredibly short attention spans, so staying relavent and interactive is critical.
Ice Breakers to get you started:
- The Artwork: This game can be done 1-on-1, but is better with groups of 3 or more. Have the groups pair up so that every group has a pair. One group is the Artwork and the other the Artists. It is the Artists’ role to shape the Artwork like clay (for about 5-8 minutes) and give a tour of the artwork and what it represents.
- Eye Contact: This game can be done with any number of people. Have the participants stand in a circle and on a specific cue have the participants look up at anyone other than the individuals to their immediate right or left. If eye contact is made during any of these rounds, participants must step our of the circle. Once it gets down to 5 or less, the “immediate right or left” rule no longer applies.
- Psychic Ten: Sitting in a group with eyes closed, try to count to 10. Only one person can speak at a time, so if more than one speaks, they have start over.
An out-of-the-box idea:
- 5 to 15: This is an ongoing game that can be used to reel in some of the less enthusiastic ones. This game involves some kind of incentive and some way to digitally communicate with your students. Send an email, facebook message, DM tweet, or text-message with a password to someone in your student housing community with two options – 1 they have 5 minutes to come directly to the office or 2 they can forward the message to a friend/roommate to do the same within 15 minutes. If they arrive on-time, they get some incentive/prize – like free lunch, discount coupon, cool earbuds, etc.
There are a lot of challenges for those that work in reslife, but in the end most feel its worth it. Here’s to you Reslifers!
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