Kirchmeier outlines plans as new director of off-campus life

Cathaleen Qiao Chen

After serving four months as Northwestern’s director of off-campus life, Anthony Kirchmeier is trying to find new ways to engage and educate off-campus NU students and the surrounding Evanston community.

Kirchmeier started working at NU in January, and the newly created position is a component of the Division of Student Affairs. Its primary purpose is to serve students who live off campus, a population that consists of more than 3,500 students, according to Dean of Students Burgwell Howard.

“Looking for support for students living off campus has been on our radar for several years,” Howard said. “We’re in a position now that we can make this happen.”

As the director of off-campus life, Kirchmeier said his goal is to provide communication and resources for students, parents, Evanston private businesses and city officials.

“I am the first point of contact between these groups,” Kirchmeier said.

He has also put together a website that offers information on dining, budgeting and housing for students who live off campus. The site outlines some of Evanston’s city ordinances as well.

Kirchmeier said he also steps in as a mediator if there are any conflicts between students and Evanston landlords. “We’ve intervened when students have tried to reach out to landlords,” Howard said. “If it’s December and they’ve got no heat in their apartment, we want to help them out in that sense.”

In addition to attending meetings with students, Kirchmeier represents the University at city meetings. He facilitated a discussion Tuesday night called Community Conversations among the NU Police Department, the Evanston Police Department, students and city residents.

One of Kirchmeier’s current projects is coordinating security and entrance issues in preparation for Dillo Day. As a member of the Dillo Day task force, Kirchmeier will help distribute wristbands for off-campus students and those who are 18 or younger.

Kirchmeier is also planning a student clean-up day called Evanston ReNUvation. The community outreach activity will take place the day after Dillo Day, where students can pick up trash and clean up the Evanston community after the festival.

“A long-term goal is community building with Evanston,” Kirchmeier said. He said he hopes to organize community block parties and picnics to engage off-campus students with their neighbors.

Kirchmeier said he and his colleagues in the Dean of Students’ office are also looking to learn from other schools where University personnel – “community advisors” – live in the surrounding metropolitan community in order to communicate messages between the school and the neighborhoods.

Kirchmeier also works with NU’s Associated Student Government, especially the Off-Campus Advisory Board, a student group that meets with University personnel every quarter to voice the needs and concerns of off-campus students. Steven Monacelli, ASG’s vice president of community relations and member of the Off-Campus Advisory Board, said the availability of Kirchmeier as a link between Evanston and the University will benefit both parties.

“We’ve met with him a couple of times now, and we’ve given him a very long list of things to do,” the Communication junior said. “One of the first things is to establish ties with the Evanston community.”

Party registration is another long-term project for off-campus relations, Monacelli said. He said the Off-Campus Advisory Board hopes that in a few years, the University will coordinate a system that would allow off-campus students to register their parties with the University. Therefore, if noise complaints occur, University Police rather than the Evanston Police Department would be the first to contact students.

Howard said the University wants to employ additional staff for Kirchmeier’s office.

“Off-campus life is an important aspect of the college career,” Kirchmeier said. “It’s a continuing part of a student’s education, and my role is help them transition from on-campus (to) off-campus, to seek ways to be better connected with the community and to bolster relationships between students and their neighborhoods.”

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