In first year on the job, Kirchmeier looks to bridge off-campus gap

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant In Focus Editor

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A year after the University created a new position for Anthony Kirchmeier as the director of off-campus life, his office is rolling out new programs and a new website.

In January, the office hired off-campus ambassadors, paid undergraduate students who coordinate events for off-campus students and worked to improve relationships between students and Evanston residents. The office will launch a website within the next two weeks that will help students find housing and subletters.

Although Kirchmeier was unable to share details about the website before plans were finalized, he said in the past year his office has made strides in connecting off-campus students with the University, particularly through an increased social media presence and the off-campus ambassadors.

“They are finding better ways to get off-campus students connected with on-campus events or improve relationships with long-term residents,” Kirchmeier said.

The three off-campus ambassadors are Weinberg juniors Mike Morgan and Chloe Woodhouse and Weinberg sophomore Wilson Shirley. Shirley said the students have already hosted events and improved communications with students living off-campus.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to get students involved with both Northwestern and the larger Evanston community,” he said.

Although Shirley said the majority of the campus ambassadors’ work has so far been largely “internal,” they recently hosted a dodgeball tournament for off-campus students at Blomquist Recreation Center to bring them on-campus.

Each off-campus ambassador receives a $150 stipend to plan programming for off-campus students, Shirley said. He said his event is not yet finalized, but it will be related to the upcoming municipal election. He said the ambassadors will be working to encourage more students to participate in the election, even though they are not running specific voting drives.

Shirley said the ambassadors have made strides in improving communication between the administration and off-campus students, particularly through a Facebook page. Facilitating this kind of communication is not new for Shirley or Morgan. Shirley serves on the Associated Student Government community relations committee, and Morgan is an ASG off-campus senator.

“The off-campus ambassadors help make off-campus feel less disconnected,” Morgan said. “Through my various roles on campus, I’ve been able to work on quite a few different projects that help to create and provide resources that do that.”

With the new website launching in just two weeks, Kirchmeier said he is working now on gathering data about how students perceive off-campus living conditions. He said a survey went out to these students recently to collect data about various features of off-campus living. The survey is sent out every two years, he explained, and this year was updated to include information based on technological advances in social networking sites such as Twitter.

“We’re looking at how we can better respond to the changing wants and needs of students who live off-campus,” Kirchmeier said.

He said these new developments in the office during the last year and his meetings with student focus groups have allowed the University to gain better feedback from students about the the off-campus experience.

As the office continues to gain its footing and the off-campus ambassadors see where changes are needed, Morgan said they hope to continue to help connecting students to the NU campus even when they live a few blocks away.

“We’re bringing campus off-campus and bringing the off-campus students back to campus,” Morgan said.

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