Programming basic y2k success sdsm&t department of residence life proposed student success programming model adapted for sdsm&T by: Brian Craig Steinberg assistant director of residence life for programs march-dake hall director

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1. What do you expect?

Have you thought about what you expect from residents?  Most people will do as much as you expect of them.  Therefore, if you expect little involvement and disinterested residents, that is exactly what you will get.  If what you are striving for is an involving community, then explain that to your residents early on.  Let them know what kind of year you hope to have with them.  Don’t be afraid to expect your residents to get involved with one another and hall activities.  Let them know they have the power to develop a community within the residence hall.  This may be a good time to discuss the goals. 
Tell your residents about the BASIC model.  Let them know what is to come.  If you are excited about the challenge of building a strong, involving community, let your residents know.  If you are apprehensive about the process, tell them that.  Why not do the same regarding your feelings about playing the role of disciplinarian? 
Chances are, at some point in their lives, each of your residents has been a part of an involved group, so talk to them about the similarities.  Explain that this residential community can be as positive an experience as any group experience that they have had in the past.  Give residents an idea of what you have been challenged to facilitate.  Don’t try to hide BASIC from your residents.  The residents’ aspect of BASIC is critical because they are the key to a successful and effective process. 
Let the students know that they are a part of a student-empowered community.  They have the power to build a community that will grow and develop throughout the year.  The empowered community encourages resident involvement within the floor and the hall and also provides a place for discussion of individual and group rights and responsibilities.  As a result, a stronger community should develop; one that residents believe in and care about because they have participated in creating their own environment.

2. What do residents expect from you?

Residents need to sense that you are approachable and open to their suggestions, so be prepared to do a lot of listening.  Some residents might be up front and tell you that they expect you to give them privacy and not disrupt them with a lot of activities.  Not all residents will be interested in the same level of involvement.  Discuss what goals you have for yourself and the community. 
This is also a perfect opportunity to discuss your role as a disciplinarian.  While your goal and purpose is to promote a positive living community, it is important to be up front and honest about your role when a law or university policy is violated.  Residents can expect that you will play the role of community builder, however, when residents make irresponsible decisions you will be forced into the role of disciplinarian.

3. What are the community members’ expectations of one another?

It is appropriate for community members to have expectations of one another.  However, before residents can articulate their expectations, they need to see themselves as members of a community. One way to establish some sense of community is to have residents focus on their similarities. For instance, all residents on your floor are attending the same school, perhaps they are also the same sex and same age.  Use part of your floor meeting to brainstorm similarities and discuss community expectations. You may want to refer to the Community Living Creed as Well.

C. Develop Rituals and Traditions:

"Rituals help to create, maintain, and invent patterns of collective action and social structure" (Kuh, 1988, p. 17).  Now is a great time to begin thinking about the traditions you can create, maintain, and invent on your floor so that residents can share in them. 
We will talk even more about traditions later.  For now you might try to find out if there are any traditions the residents want to begin from the start of the school year.  Some ideas might be watching a weekly TV show or eating together one night a week, having an open-door policy each afternoon at a specific time, or celebrating one another’s birthdays.  Other ideas can be found in the Ritual and Traditions and the Programming Activity section of the model.  What traditions have you been a part of? 

D. Department Agenda Items:

Your hall director will provide you with information that you need to discuss at your first floor meeting.  Perhaps there is information about upcoming programs, changes in policy, quiet hours, room changes, and hall government.  This meeting would be a place conducive to highlight and cover sections of the "SDSM&T Handbook" and “Department of Residence Life Handbook."

To review, we have suggested these five things to include at your first floor meeting:

A. A way for residents to get to know one another’s names.

B. Discussion of Community Expectations.

C. Discussion of Goals of RA, Hall, and the Residents.

D. Brainstorming of Floor Rituals.

E. Departmental Agenda Items. 

Top 10 "Random" things to discuss at First Floor Meeting

10. Why does David Letterman do this anyway?

9. Programs you would like to see done or that there is a need for.

8. How to shut off the hot water when your roommate(s) are showering.

7. How to keep community involvement going throughout the year.

6. Discuss the goals of the RA’s, the hall, and the residents.

5. Make the practiced traditions on your floor a positive experience for all.

4. Include Residence Hall Staff, Residents, and RHA in community building.

3. Explain that the residents have the power to develop a community.

2. Go over outside resources for possible programming opportunities.


Remembering Residents’ Names

We told you earlier we were going to revisit the importance of knowing names.  Up until now, however, learning the names of residents has only been something that you thought about.  Now you can take action!

"... a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language... The information we are imparting or the request we are making takes on a special importance when we approach the situation with the name of the individual. From the waitress to the senior executive, the name will work magic as we deal with others. . ." (Carnegie, 1981, p. 83)

Carnegie’s advice is especially important advice to you as an RA.  We are in the business of imparting lots of information and making many requests of our residents.  If knowing a resident’s name can make a difference in the way he/she receives your information, then it is worth taking the time to learn each resident’s name.  Consider it a small investment with lots of return! 
Harry Lorayne is a noted teacher of memory.  In his book entitled, The Memory Book, Lorayne suggests the following five tips:

Be sure to hear the name.

Ask how the name is spelled.

Make a remark about the name--any remark.  For example, "Oh, I just met a person with the same 

Use the name where appropriate during your initial conversation.

Use the name again when you say goodbye.

"Remember this: anything you can visualize, anything that is tangible and meaningful, is already half-remembered.  Names like Flag, Carpenter, Hunter, Rivers, Knight, Armstrong, already have meaning; they can be visualized because they create pictures in your mind. . . If you meet someone named Bill, picture a dollar bill.  For Richard, picture someone being rich.  For Denise, picture your niece" (Lorayne, 1985, p. 34). 

7. Interaction: Stacking Conversations

     Stacking information is a technique used to remember what you have learned during conversations with your residents.  We stack conversations because we never know when we are gathering a piece of information that we could use in the future.  Dale Carnegie tells a story of a particular piece of information that he "stacked" when he met people:

"For many years I made a point to find out the birthday of my friends.  How? Although I haven’t the foggiest bit of faith in astrology,  I began by asking the other party whether she/he believed the date of one’s birth has anything to do with character disposition.  I then asked her/him to tell me their month and day of birth.  If she or he said November 24, for example, I kept repeating to myself, "November 24, November 24."  The minute my friend’s back was turned, I wrote down the name and birthday and later would transfer it to a birthday book.  At the beginning of each year, I had these birth dates scheduled in my calendar pad so that they came to my attention automatically. When the natal day arrived, there was my letter or telegram.  What a hit it made! I was frequently the only person on earth who remembered" (1981, p. 60-61).

It is easy to see how someone might use information stacked about a birthday.  Just like Dale Carnegie, you can write it down and then wish a person happy birthday on her or his birth date.  Not everything your residents tell you is going to be worth stacking.  The more you do it, the better you will become at recognizing opportunities to use the information you receive.  For instance, imagine the conversation below:

RA: Hi, I’m your RA, Tanisha. 
Resident: Hi, I’m Janet. 
RA: (Noticing Janet setting up her computer) That is a great system!  Is it new? 
Janet: Kind of, I worked at a computer store for the past two years and I’ve been piecing it together, slowly.

This conversation could go on and on.  If the RA knows anything about computers, she could continue talking to Janet about the equipment.  If the RA does not know anything about computer equipment, she could ask questions (getting the resident on comfortable ground), or talk about hardware and software. 
Could any of that conversation be worth stacking?  Sure! Not only is the resident’s name important, but it also is worth stacking the fact that Janet worked in a computer store.  You might find another resident who is having a problem getting her or his computer system hooked up.   Janet could be a good resource person.  Janet may own or be familiar with software applications.  If your residents need some help with computing on campus, Janet could assist them in setting up their accounts on campus. 
Preparing to Converse with the Quietest Resident

Have you ever heard of Larry King? For more than thirty years he has been in the talking business. Currently, he works as the host of the only worldwide talk show.  e is also the author of a book called How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere.  In putting together the BASIC model, we thought it was important to share some of what Larry King had to say.  As an RA, a tremendous amount of your work is done through conversation with others.  And, if a man who has more than thirty years of experience admits that there is an art to conversing with people, we knew that RAs could certainly benefit from what he had to say.

Before we get too heavily into the subject of conversation, it is important to talk about the fact that there are many different kinds of RAs.  For instance, depending on whether an RA is shy or outgoing might affect the way she/he gets to know her/his residents.  Some people like talking to small groups, while others love being in large crowds.  One way is not better than the other, but it is important to recognize the difference.

Larry King suggests, "To overcome shyness, remember that the person you are talking to is probably just as shy as you are.  Most of us are.  Reminding yourself of this will do wonders for your ability to shed your own shyness" (King, 1994, p 34).

Shy or not shy, outgoing or not outgoing, there are a few ingredients that need to be present in every good conversationalist:

The right attitude-the willingness to talk even when it might not be comfortable at first. 
A sincere interest in the other person and an understanding that he/she is shy. 
An openness to them about yourself. 
Keep an "open door" available, this may bring the shy resident to approach you. 
Increase your visibility on the floor: Stop in rooms or on the floor and say, "Hi."

Below are more helpful hints from the "King" of communication!

A. Get people on comfortable ground

Ask them about themselves.  That will give you something to talk about, and your conversation partner will consider you a fascinating talker.  Why?  People love to talk about themselves (King, 1994, p. 37). 
"Everybody’s got at least one subject they love to talk about" (King, 1994, p. 28).

B. Use current topics and news items

Use these issues to start conversation with even a stranger.  Is there a court case being tried in the courts?  Is there something going on overseas that the country is talking about?  What is going on around campus that has got everyone talking?  Newsworthy events are a wonderful way to strike up a conversation with most anyone.  "To be a good conversationalist, you have to be ready to talk about what’s on people’s minds--and it may be the subject they just heard about on the radio and saw on the evening news . . ." (King, 1994, p. 50).

C. Ask Great questions

Larry King insists that "Why is the greatest question ever asked, and it always will be.  And is certainly the surest way of keeping a conversation lively and interesting" (King, 1994, p. 53).  Conversely, steer away from simple yes/no questions, since they usually yield one or two word answers.  Once the person has answered your question it is the end of the topic and possibly even the end of the conversation. Below is an example:

Avoid closed-ended questions..."Did you have a good summer vacation?" 
Instead ask open-ended questions..."What was the highlight of your summer vacation?


"Once you have looked into the eyes of people in a foreign 
country, you realize you all want the same thing: food on your 
table, love in your marriage, healthy children, laughter & the 
freedom to be. The religion, the ideology, and the government 
may be different, but the dreams are all the same." 
- Erma Bombeck

Making People Feel Important

What is so critical about making people feel important as you build an involving community?  What is it that makes people feel important? How could striking up a conversation and listening to people’s stories make them feel important? 
Dale Carnegie in his best-selling book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," refers to what he calls "The Primary Law of Human Conduct."  The law is simple.  "Always Make The Other Person Feel Important."  He asserts, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in them" (Carnegie, 1981, p. 100).   Plain and simple, this means that taking the time to hear people’s stories will pay off in building the interpersonal relationships necessary to create an involving community.  As you continue to interact with residents and learn their names, think about creative ways in which you can seek out and listen to residents’ stories.  Remember Carnegie’s Primary Law of Human Conduct and let the stories begin!

If listening to stories is your goal, here are some tips designed by counselors that allow storytellers to feel comfortable and continue to talk with you.  Ivey (1994) offers these hints for active listening:

A. Keep Eye Contact When Possible

However, remember cultural differences.  "Research indicates that some African Americans in the United States . . . may look more at an individual when talking and slightly less when listening.  Among some Native American groups, eye contact by the young is a sign of disrespect.  Some cultural groups (for instance, certain Native Americans, Inuit, or Aboriginal Australian groups)  generally avoid eye contact, especially when talking about serious subjects" (Ivey, 1994, p. 29).

B. Be Conscious of Body Language

Your body language can affect how open people are in telling you their stories.  "A natural, relaxed body style that is your own is most likely to be effective, but be prepared to adapt and flex according to the individual with whom you are talking" (Ivey, 1994, p. 29).

C. Remember Your Tone of Voice

"Your voice is an instrument that communicates much of the feeling you have toward another person or situation.  Changes in its pitch, volume, or speech rate convey the same thing that changes in eye contact or body language does" (Ivey, 1994, p. 30).

We are sure you have found out, some stories are short and sweet, while others are long and involved. 
Earlier you reflected upon the stories you have heard since your residents arrived. You have also read tips on how to be an effective listener.  One of the best ways to make someone feel important is to be an attentive listener.  Use these skills to your advantage while communicating and interacting with your residents. 
8. Involvement: Creating Social Networks

Until residents know one another, it will be very difficult to create a community.  Having you know the residents is one thing, but it is also important that they know one another.  "Early in the year, it is important to have social and/or recreational activities that encourage residents to establish contact with each other and to accomplish the elementary step needed to transform the conglomerate of individual residents into a group" (Winston, 1993, p. 322).

Your goal during Creating Networks is to help residents get acquainted:

Help residents learn one another’s names, interests, and personality characteristics.

Use bulletin boards to announce birthdays, activities, recreational sports, floor meetings etc.

Collect e-mail addresses/web-pages and post them on bulletin boards or pass them out.

Encourage an "open door" policy.

Collect data about your floor in order to plan an activity.

Have the floor participate in a recreational activity together.

Consider the following questions in collecting data for your floor:

Of the residents on your floor, how many names do you have left to learn?

Since check-in day, have you received any new residents (hall transfers, room changes)?  If so, what can you do to meet those students, as well as introduce them to the rest of the community?

What kind of initiative can you take in order to learn the remaining residents’ names?

How much time have you given yourself to learn the remaining resident names?

Now: Make observations about the physical layout of your building and floor.  Where are the recreational facilities, bathrooms and study areas?  Where is the RA room located in relation to residents?  Is there a space where residents tend to spend a lot of time?  Are there any physical hindrances to the layout of your floor (Winston, 1993, p. 466)?

Now: How can this information be helpful to you in building community and coordinating hall activities?

Now: What is the social/organizational makeup of your hall?  Have you noticed groups of residents who spend time together?  Are there hall traditions?  Which residents, if any, have demonstrated leadership?

Are there negative influences on your corridor?  If there are negative influences, what are they and what do you attribute them to (Winston, 1993, p. 466)?

Now: Describe some of the characteristics of the students living on your floor: gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disabilities, sexual orientation, academic major, daily schedules, personality types, traits or preferences (Winston, 1993, p.466).

Now: Describe the ways in which knowing the social/organizational makeup of your floor will be helpful in building community and coordinating hall activities. 

"Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they 
try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more 
of what they want so that they will be happier.  The way it 
actually works is the reverse.  You must first be who you 
really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have 
what you want." - Margaret Young

Helpful Hint: Since all residence halls at SDSM&T has ethernet connections you should set up a communication system with your residents. If you have a lot of freshmen, why not help them activate their accounts?  Make sure to involve upper-class students and the Help Desk to assist with this process so that you do not get overwhelmed with requests for help from freshmen. 
Can We Talk?

The topic of dialogue, or discussion, is critical to hearing all of the voices in a community.  This occurs throughout the residence hall at all times, but it is very important during floor and hall meetings.  This section was designed to prepare you for the role of moderator in a community dialogue.  Earlier we discussed listening to the stories of your residents, and how this strengthens interpersonal relationships by making people feel important.  In that section we focused on listening to community members rather than creating dialogue.  In this section we will focus on creating dialogue between members of the community.

Why is dialogue important among members of a community?  To begin with, community is the place where people feel they belong, fit in, are cared for, and a place where they feel important (Roger, Anchors, and Associates, 1993).  In addition to being a place where people fit in, a community ideally should be a place where it is acceptable to disagree or experience conflict.  Lappe’ and DuBois (1994, p. 252) cite the art of "Creative Conflict," or dialogue, as a means of demonstrating diverse perspectives, uncovering interests in a group, and building group confidence.  They advocate dialogue that creates an environment "safe" for difference.

To create such an environment, it is necessary to ease the fears of community members surrounding dialogue and conflict.  Fears may include embarrassment, ignorance, and ridicule.  Can you recall a time when you hesitated to join a discussion due to any of the fears mentioned above? 
How can you create an environment "safe" for difference?  Lappe’ and DuBois (1994) offer some key ideas in this area:

Agree to leave labels at the door 
Agree to disagree, then explore common ground 
Keep focus on the present - and on solutions 
Support restrained expressions of anger 
Be prepared to speak your mind 
Make no permanent enemies 
Finally, remember that no community can deal effectively with an issue unless it is acknowledged.

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