Kelly Beers, assistant director of First Year Experience, on the UMaine campus community:
How would you describe the University of Maine residential community?
Our residence halls are an extension of the classroom; we provide the potential for students to be close to their classes and peers, to increase the potential for contact with faculty and classmates as well as to increase exposure to campus resources. Our halls are also places where students can have fun, make friends and feel at home. Our staff really focuses on developing strong communities so that each student feels connected to their peers and has a sense of belonging on campus. Many of our students are living away from home and with non-family for the first time. We understand that this can be a tough adjustment, so we work to help our students understand what it means to be a community member, to respect others and to compromise in a way that allows for the best living situation for each community member.
Tell us about the First Year Experience (FYE).
Studies show that first-year students are the most likely to leave an institution, especially if they do not feel connected to their campus within the first six weeks of the semester. The FYE program was started in 2007 as a way to intentionally group our first-year students together in an environment where our staff can focus on their particular needs as they transition from high school to college. We engage our students in social activities, but also provide opportunities for them to learn life skills and academic skills.
Are first-year students required to live on campus?
How do you serve as a resource to first-year students on campus?
My position was created as a way to add an extra layer of support to our first year experience program. In this role I run the First Year Center in Androscoggin Hall, but I also be travel throughout the FYE halls, stopping in to see students. My goal is for each first-year student to know who I am and how they can find me if they are in need. I have worked at UMaine since 2007 and have a solid knowledge of both the needs of our students and the available resources across campus.
How does Residence Life connect with other departments on campus, and why is that important?
Residence Life staff really have the opportunity to get to know the students very well since they live and work in the residence halls with the students. By partnering and connecting with other offices and learning about the resources that they have to offer, or by helping these offices get into the halls to program, we help expose them to the students and also help get the students connected to these resources. In a lot of ways we act as a go-between in helping connect residential students and campus resources.
What resources are available to students living on campus?
Our staff is one of the biggest resources for our students. We have 96 Resident Assistants (RAs); these upper-class students live on the floors with the students and serve as a resource and role model to our residential students. We also have graduate staff Assistant Community Coordinators (ACCs) and full-time Community Coordinators (CCs) who oversee each residential complex and provide guidance and direction for each complex. All of our staff are thoroughly trained on campus resources, conflict resolution, mediation and general advising. We can provide both information and education to students, as well as help when they come into conflict, whether the issue is not enjoying their major or conflict with their roommate. In addition, simply by living on campus residential students have greater access to resources, including campus offices, after-hours help, programs and activities.
What living/learning communities does UMaine offer through on-campus housing?
We have several Living Learning Communities and themed-housing buildings. These include T.E.C.H., Great Books, Global Crossroads, The Well, CHOICE Housing, Support for Science Students, Explore UMaine and Outdoor Adventure. You can check out our website for more info.
What’s the most-asked question you get from parents and how do you respond?
Most parents and families want to make sure that their students are going to be safe on campus. We always say our halls are as safe as our students are responsible. Our buildings are secured 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless someone holds or props a door open. You need card access to get into the halls and individual rooms, and the doors automatically lock when they shut. Crime does happen, but we have enough measures in place that if we all take responsibility for safety and security, we can minimize it.
What’s most important for parents to know about residential living at UMaine?
When students arrive on our campus in fall, they are adults to us, though parents and families will still see them as a student. Our expectation is that our students will govern their own behavior and take responsibility for themselves. This change can be hard for some parents and families to understand. We do not check in to make sure the students are going to class or doing the other things they need to do. But we do care about our students and ultimately want them to be successful. If your student is struggling, direct them to outreach to us, because we’ll help them find what they need, so long as they are willing to meet us halfway.