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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In addition to creating an environment "safe" for difference, it is also important to be aware of how to set up and facilitate a community dialogue.  Larry King (1994) offers his thought on how to "Quarterback a Conversation" which may aid in coaching community dialogue.  Larry advocates: 

A. Choose a topic that will involve everybody.

This is key as you try to bring members together based on topics that are relevant to the community.

B. Solicit opinions

This is a great way of getting community members invested and involved as you let them drive the discussion.

C. Help the shyest person in the group

Including everyone interested and allowing their voices to be heard is key to involvement.

D. Don’t monopolize the conversation

Remember that you are a community member and perhaps coach of this meeting.  Focus on what your community members are saying and ask thought-provoking questions.

E. Ask ‘what if’ questions

These are questions that will help shape the direction of the process.  You can get your voice out there by asking, "What might happen if we . . .?" Remember the evolution of your role from directing to coaching.

F. Pay attention to the physical setting

The setting chosen for the meeting should be large enough to accommodate everyone comfortably, allow for community members to see one another while speaking, be well lit, and just the right temperature to avoid the crankiness associated with a room being too cold or hot.

Apathy and Your Residents: Does it Exist?

If involvement is so important why do so many RA’s complain about apathy in their communities? 
Over time we have set the norm for passive environments in our residence halls.  Think about it.  In most residence halls, it is the RAs who plan programs for the community.  And, in planning those programs, the RA frequently goes outside the community to university police officers, peer educators, and other offices to find someone who will present an assigned topic.  The RA probably makes the publicity announcing the event, and if there are refreshments at the program, it is probably the RA who purchased them. 
Discipline is handled the same way.  If a resident is being disruptive, often it is the RA who is contacted to take care of it.  If garbage is left in the hallway, the RA at best will address it, and at worst will ignore it like the rest of the floor.  Ultimately, the custodians will pick it up.  All residents have to do is check into his or her room on opening day and try to stay out of trouble for the rest of the year.  We communicate our expectation that residents stay out of trouble, but we do not communicate our expectation that residents get involved.  Therefore, we create passive environments where to be unobtrusive is the standard.

Schroeder and Mable explain, "In too many cases, the elevated role of the RA as a peer counselor and developmental programmer led to the practice of doing even more for students, rather than encouraging them to do it for themselves.  Instead of valuing such processes as the RA advising a floor leadership or programming group toward shared objectives, expectations shifted to such direct RA outcomes as a specified number of programs per semester as a RA job requirement.  A shift from rewarding community building processes to defining success as specific events for which the RA was accountable for has perhaps created a disincentive for RA’s to spend the time and patience to develop contributive justice among members of the floor community" (Schroeder, Mable and Associates, 1994, p. 222).  In other words, RA’s have become so used to doing all of the necessary community building for their residents that they no longer expect their residents to be involved.

"A Community is like a ship; everyone ought 
to be prepared to take the helm." 
- Henrik Ibsen 

Fringe Dwellers

By now you have noticed that some of your community members may not be involved in the everyday activities of the community.  Finding ways to include these individuals based on their own needs and desires can be challenging.  Why concentrate on community members who appear to be disinterested or never seem to be home?  The answer to this question is simple.  BASIC is based on the belief that each resident has something to offer the community.

"A community’s effectiveness and success are based, in part, on its ability to listen to and respond to the voices of those who are unable to speak, or whose voices are drowned out by the more aggressive, self-assured members of the community.  In order to do that the community must acknowledge that the voiceless exist and must make a commitment to seek out these individuals into a dialogue that addresses their needs" (Roger, Anchors, and Associates, 1993, p. 465). 
Some individuals, by choice, are not going to be active participants in the community.  It is important for you to know why this may be happening and if there may not be a way to provide a service to even the most elusive resident.  Are you still having periodic contact with these residents?  Can you answer simple questions about these individuals such as major, hometown, academic year, hobbies, interests, etc.?  Why has this person chosen, if that is the case, to distance him or herself from the community?  Could it be outside interests, work, or perhaps family responsibilities?

Dennis Roberts, author of Value Education Through Activities Involvement, reviews three characteristics of inclusive student groups.  He suggests there is a commitment to democratic decision-making, support for risk-taking, and recognition of student accomplishments (Roberts, 1989).  In using BASIC, you are well on your way to having all three of the "Roberts’ Rules for Inclusiveness" present in your community. 
The discussion you and your residents had during the first floor meeting about expectations and rituals was one of the opportunities to involve your residents in democratic decision making. Involving students in planning and leading events, tapping assets, and using residents to fill one another’s "gaps," are all examples of residents taking risks.  Robert’s third suggestion of recognition is something that will be focused on later in the Recognition section. 


9. Influence: Mapping Assets and Discovering

DEAs (Desired Experiences and Accomplishments)

Mable and DeCoster (1980) assert that establishing an accepting atmosphere where residents can comfortably articulate personal values, experiences, and aspirations are one of three levels of community building.  "As student staff members, through their own skills of self-disclosure, assist students to think, feel, act upon self-knowledge, and to discover and cultivate who they are, meaningful relationships will emerge" (p. 208).

These sections will help you discover the information you need in order to assist students in self-disclosing in addition to thinking, feeling, and acting upon their self-knowledge.  This section in BASIC will enable you to bring your community to a new level.

By this point in BASIC, you have hopefully uncovered a lot of information about your residents.  The focus in this section is to continue discovering information.  Specifically, the information you will be looking for is the contribution each resident can make to your community as well as what she or he can gain from the community.

A. Mapping Assets: 
Almost anything that makes a resident unique can be considered an asset.  For example, a resident who plays an instrument, has taken a trip, collects music, is computer proficient, can cook, plays a particular sport, pays his or her way through school, is a member of the Greek community, or held a summer job has lots of assets.  Identifying assets is not hard.  As in other sections, you probably can identify the assets of many residents without leaving your chair.

B. Discovering Desired Experiences and Accomplishments (DEAs)

DEAs are anything your residents would like to do, try, or change.  Do residents talk about improving their grades, becoming more computer literate, finding a job, changing their physical appearance, trying a new sport, finding or losing a boyfriend or girlfriend?  All of these are examples of DEAs.  Think of the different DEAs that you have heard your residents talk about.  Are there common themes to some of those DEAs?  Are there some that spark your interest?

Identifying Matches and Making Matches

Refer back to the "Stacking Conversations" section of this booklet where we found that Tanisha’s resident was versed in computers and software. This asset possessed by Tanisha’s resident could be matched with a number of DEAs. For instance, Janet could assist a resident who desires to purchase a new computer in picking out the right software. She might also be matched up with someone who desires to learn more about changes in technology. We have provided some examples to get you started.


Joe plays the guitar and writes music in his spare time. 


Drew bought a guitar and is teaching himself how to play. He mentioned to you that he was interested in practicing with someone.


Sharon has been in a sorority for the past two her friends years.


Cara is being pressured by to rush a sorority and does not know if it is the right move for her.


Sanjay is an avid weight lifter and runner.  He expressed an interest in getting in shape before spring break.


David and Nathan have goes to the gym at least four times a week.


Iris has one of the highest grade point averages within her the community.  She is a science education major and excels in laboratory courses.


Georgia is really struggling chemistry class and is contemplating dropping the class if she fails the next test in two weeks.

"Nature has given us one tongue, but two ears, 
that we may hear from others twice as much 
as we speak." - Epictetus 







10. Investment: Tapping Assets

You might have already been tapping assets by connecting residents with one another to solve problems.  The focus for this section of BASIC is to consciously create opportunities for assets to be tapped.  The beauty of this is that simultaneously, residents’ needs will be filled.  Research done by Schroeder, Mable and Associates (1994) supports the notion of tapping assets to build community and develop leadership on a hall. They explain:

"Leadership is a relational process: people working collaboratively together toward shared purposes . . . The outmoded passive notion of followers must be replaced with the active role of members empowered to share leadership.  Explicitly linking leadership to the responsibility of community members toward their shared purposes will generalize students’ responsibility to the broader campus community, their other organizational commitments, and their eventual off-campus residential and professional communities" (p. 224-25).

Tapping Assets is using one person’s talents, gifts or experiences to fill another person(s) needs.  Dale Carnegie (1981, p. 28) gives an example of an asset that was tapped:

Paul Harvey, in one of his radio broadcasts, "The Rest of the Story," told how showing sincere appreciation can change a person’s life.  He reported that years ago a teacher in Detroit asked Steve Morris to help her find a mouse that was lost in the classroom.  You see, she appreciated the fact that nature had given Stevie something no one else in the room had.  Nature had given Stevie a remarkable pair of ears to compensate for his blind eyes.  But this was really the first time Stevie had been shown appreciation for those talented ears.  Now, years later, he says that this act of appreciation was the beginning of a new life.  You see, from that time on he developed his gift of hearing and went on to become, under the stage name of Stevie Wonder, one of the greatest singers and songwriters of the seventies."

Stevie Wonder was able to help his classmates find the missing mouse because his teacher recognized a gift he had and tapped it for the good of the community.  Keep in mind however that not every experience, talent and gift will interest all residents.  The key to Tapping Assets is to target community members who are genuinely interested in learning what another community member has to offer.  Personally inviting community members who share the same desired experiences as well as opening up the experience to the entire community is likely to produce an event to remember. 
Have you observed residents tapping one another’s assets (getting help in class, being taught a sport, seeking advice from another student etc.)?  How did this occur and who was involved?  Is there a time in the last week when you directed or facilitated a match? Who were the residents involved and what were the issues?

Filling Gaps

Filling gaps can be done in two different, yet simple ways.  The first way to fill a gap is to identify DEAs in the community that cannot be filled with community members’ assets.  The second way to fill a gap involves identifying information/experiences not already in the community.  Both types of gaps involve filling the needs of community members and doing so with assistance from outside the community. 
Filling Gap Type #A

Now we want you to apply your information about resources to what you know about your residents.  When you were making matches on your community map, did you find that some DEAs did not have corresponding assets, in other words they went unmatched?  What are some outside resources that you could tap to fill those unmatched DEAs?

Filling Gap Type #B

Filling gaps also is looking at community members and figuring out what might be missing from their experience in the hall.  These gaps might not be anything you have heard residents talk about.  These gaps are, perhaps, some of the most important, because they are the ones NOT talked about.  Most people do not speak outwardly about doing poorly in classes or struggling with their consumption of alcohol.  Yet, we know college students across the country struggle with these issues.  Support on issues such as academics, sexuality, health, diversity, personal safety, career exploration, drugs, alcohol, and relationships is an important part of what you do as a student leader.  In looking at this list of topics, can you think of community members who could benefit from learning more about particular topics?  Prepare to plan some of these learning opportunities for those in your hall.


Have you ever been recognized for something you have done well?  Why do you think you remember being recognized? Fred Bauer, author of the article, "The Power of a Note," tells the following story to underscore the importance of recognition.

Former Ford chairman Donald Petersen, who is largely credited for turning the company around in the 1980's, made it a practice to jot positive notes to associates every day.  "I’d just scribble them on a memo pad or the corner of a letter and pass them along," he says. "The most important ten minutes of your day are those you spend doing something to boost the people who work for you."  "Too often," he observes, "people we genuinely like have no idea how we feel about them.  Too often we think, "I haven’t said anything critical; why do I have to say something positive?  We forget that human beings need positive reinforcement--in fact, we thrive on it!" (Bauer, 1991, p. 74). 
The story illustrates the importance of taking the time to recognize the contributions of others.  Notes or e-mails are particularly useful forms of recognition because they do not require a lot of time or money.  They are not, however, the only form of recognition.  Depending upon who you are recognizing, you might also consider using posters, a letter in an employment file, pieces of candy, items from a Dollar Store, baked goods, signs on a resident’s door, a floor/building bulletin board.  At your next staff meeting, ask your hall director to facilitate a five-minute brainstorming session, where you can swap ideas with other staff members.

The How To’s of Recognition

As you have reflected upon the necessity of recognition, it is also important to be aware of how to provide effective recognition. Glance over the following six tips and then put yourself to the test.

Be specific:

Don’t be vague in giving feedback, such as "Thanks for your help." Rather say something such as 
"Thanks for assuming that extra responsibility."

Be individual:

Team and individual recognition go hand in hand.  When rewarding a team for a job well done, it is important to recognize individual efforts that allowed the team to succeed.

Be personal:

Each of us appreciates praise in a different way. Some of us are mortified by public displays, whereas, some of us thrive on it.  Do your homework.

Be timely:

Don’t wait until the end of the year to sing your people’s praises. Give praise along the way, with frequency.

Be sincere:

When we are specific, timely, and proportional in our praises of an individual, there’s a much greater chance it will be perceived as honest and well meant recognition. 
Ways to Recognize an Individual(s)

Hold a resident of the month award (see programming section).

Post recognitions on a community bulletin board.

Send personal "thank you" notes, e-mails, or on the hall web page.

A one-on-one personal recognition can be very powerful as well. 

11. Identity: Rituals & Traditions

The idea of rituals is grounded in giving a community some form of an identity or common purpose. If you think about your own involvement, or the involvement of your friends in RHA, Greek organizations or other clubs on campus, you can probably identify rituals that were present.  Even RA and RHA training can be considered a Department of Residence Life ritual.  Each year RAs and hall councils on this campus, and campuses throughout the country, know that they will go through a period of training for their positions.  It is a common experience that we all share and that we can count on happening each year.

"Rituals or traditions are staged, public and stylized versions of how things should be and beliefs about how things are that eloquently describe and shape cultural patterns.  Although the possibilities for expression are endless, similar patterns are repeated over time and become part of, as well as reflect, a group’s history.  These patterns teach cooperation, the importance of tradition, social relation, and solidarity, tasks and goals of the group, and the place of authority" (Kuh and Whit, 1988, p.17).

Beginning of the Year

Recall the discussion earlier on, regarding identity.  Those pages included a discussion on the importance of group identity in building community.  Reflect on a time that you were in a community that had formal or informal rituals and how those rituals affected a strong sense of community.  We suggest initiating a community driven ritual at your first floor meeting because we believe that this could assist you in building a sense of identity among your community.  Some examples are:  Hardrocker Football games and other sporting events, movie nights, eating together, playing intramurals, and performing community service.

Throughout the Year

Have any other rituals or traditions developed in the community since the beginning of the year without your support?  Is there a possibility that there are rituals taking place in the community that you are not involved in?  Take some time with community members to find out what things they do on a daily basis with other community members?

"Rituals/traditions make statements about the quality of life within the community, and set standards against which people are asked to compare and modify their behavior, values, activities, and relationships" (Kuh and Whitt, 1988, p. 17).  It is true that for every positive ritual that is established, there can be a negative ritual established.  Positive rituals might take the form of community dinners, shopping expeditions, sporting events or study breaks.

There are many positive rituals that occur throughout SDSM&T Residence Halls.  Negative rituals usually involve anything that is against the law or our code of conduct. 

12. Programming: Planning an Activity in 
      7 Easy Steps


All too often RAs attempt to plan programs without assessing the needs/desires of their residents. Assessing needs and areas of interest of your residents is the first and most important step in planning successful programs.  The tendency is to program based on your needs or likes or what easily fits into the topic of the month and then to be upset when only one person shows up. 
Needs assessment can be handled in several ways.  You may want to start out your year with a written interest assessment questionnaire, which lists a number of possible programs and ask people to evaluate how they feel about having those programs on their floor.  The survey may also include a section for the students to reply if they have any specific interests or resources.  If you use these surveys, try assessing programming needs at the beginning of the year, and then, intermittently throughout the year, review and update the surveys with your residents.

Sometimes there are topics that residents don’t express interest in at first, but are necessary as a part of college life.  Those may include alcohol awareness, sexual assault, financial aid, health issues, etc. 
By using interest awareness surveys you can determine programming needs within the hall.  Informal discussions with students can also help determine needs and interests because they may bring out a need for study skills from one resident or test anxiety from another or an interest in sports from yet another resident.  Attentive listening skills may develop a wide variety of interesting topics for you to explore as programming ideas.  Being able to plan an event will help you in the future.  Supervisors look for employees who are able to plan projects and follow through with details. 
This year we have compiled programs that address various issues of Social, Educational, Community Service, Unity, Cultural/Diversity, Spiritual/Emotional and Sports/Physical areas.  Other Programming Ideas are available as well.  Various issues will be identified during the school year.  These Needs and Responses have been added also.  The programs and ideas are available on the Department of Residence Life web page.

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