New committee works to enhance residential experience


Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

A new committee with members from across the Northwestern community will convene to discuss ways to improve the residential experience. More than $500 million will go to renovations and upgrades.

Kelli Nguyen, Reporter

A newly formed committee will focus on enhancing the sense of community and inclusion in campus housing.

The Undergraduate Residential Experience Committee — composed of faculty, staff and students — will meet to improve the residential experience through three major strategies: reexamining the role of residence life and living environments, implementing a two year on-campus living requirement and developing social and educational programs. The committee is set to convene at the end of the month, said Paul Riel, executive director of Residential Services and a co-chair on the committee.

Residential spaces should be both useful for students and liveable, he said. Through a 10-year master plan, the committee hopes to oversee residence hall renovations that will provide more space for hall programs, Riel said.

“We’re spending north of $500 million on new construction and renovations and upgrades,” Riel said. “We want to see how can we integrate that momentum into the undergraduate residential experience.”

The committee will meet to discuss a new two-year live-in requirement, which will go into effect Fall 2017, and to develop a model for social and educational programs to build a sense of community, according to an email obtained by The Daily.

“Outside of the residence halls, Northwestern has done a really amazing job with programs —  both educational and social — for freshmen with Wildcat Welcome,” said Resident Hall Association President Jack Heider, a McCormick junior. “But once you get in the halls, you’re sort of on your own.”

The committee will also examine the report released by the 2015 Faculty Task Force on the Undergraduate Academic Experience, looking at ways to use the recommendations and findings from the report to enhance the residential experience, Riel said.

“This is a paradigm shift of what the undergraduate residential experience will look like as it moves forward,” Riel said. “We believe there is a need to seriously examine all aspects of … how we are delivering the residential experience and make sure that whatever we are doing is linked to the University’s own objectives and goals for the undergraduate experience.”

This month’s meeting will be the first of at least eight committee meetings before the end of the academic year. The group hopes to present recommendations to Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president of student affairs, and Provost Daniel Linzer this summer, Riel said.

Heider said he appreciates that the committee includes diverse members of the NU community as it has a significant effect across campus.

“Everybody has interacted with residence halls in a different way,” Heider said.  “Everybody’s seen a different facet of it, so combining those perspectives is really the only way to design a new system to replace or build upon the prior one.”

ASG Residential Caucus Whip Ross Krasner, a Medill sophomore who will serve on the committee, said student representation in the committee is valuable because its recommendations could ultimately affect the entire student body.

“It’s always good to have student voice,” Krasner said. “Northwestern tries to instill a sense of community beyond just living in the same four walls.”

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