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Education Beyond the Classroom

University Housing and Dining Implements Residence Education Model (REM)

For students at the University of Iowa, choosing to live on campus is more than a place to live—it’s an experience. Students who live on campus are not only shaped by their experiences in the classroom, but also outside of it. The on-campus residence and dining experiences are designed to enhance and complement experiences that occur in more traditional learning settings. By living on campus at Iowa, students learn to advance their personal awareness to be responsible members of their communities.

Enter the Residence Education Model (REM). REM takes a planned, year-long approach to the residential experience. Similar to what students experience inside their classrooms, where an instructor maps out the student experience with learning goals, content, and touchpoints to check in, REM provides an outline for RAs and hall coordinators to plan in advance so goals can be supported through a variety of tactics. “While one goal is to provide a more consistent set of experiences and outcomes for students across each of the residence halls, there are also opportunities to adapt or tailor efforts due to differing student populations and needs,” said Greg Thompson, director of Residence Education.

In addition, students can participate in activities designed to promote their success in college throughout the academic year. These efforts focus on three main areas: learning about self, discovering relationships, and engaging in community.

  • Learning about self is developing and reflecting on identity and personal success strategies.
  • Discovering relationships is fostering connections by exploring various perspectives and experiences.
  • Engaging in community is choosing responsible actions to better the community and self.

Enhancing the Residential Experience
With the implementation of REM, a greater emphasis is placed on getting to know residents as individuals, while still supporting group connections. Programming that occurs within the residence halls has clear outlines and defined goals as part of larger strategy to incorporate campus partners in more intentional ways.

Students also engage in their hall experience through Hawk Talks, which take place several times each semester. These are purposeful conversations that each resident is given the opportunity to have with their Resident Assistant (RA). The conversations help RAs to build one-on-one relationships with their residents, hear about their experiences, and refer students to campus resources. During the 2018-2019 academic year more than 21,000 1:1 conversations that were documented through the Hawk Talk system across the five planned Hawk Talks.

What Students Can Expect
Students choosing to live on campus can expect to have dedicated staff members who want to get to know them as individuals. Every Hawkeye deserves to know that they are cared about, their voice is important, and that they belong in the residence halls. It is essential for the residence halls to have inclusive communities.

After the first year of implementation, University Housing and Dining received great feedback about the student experience and is working to continue to find creative and innovative ways to help Hawkeyes make a home in our residence halls. Students can still expect to have a RA that wants to get to know them and who cares about their individual needs, have access to many campus resources both inside and outside of the residence halls, and have the chance to live in a community that values their unique identities and experiences.

Hawk Talks will continue as part of the REM curriculum. “Like all parts of REM, we are working to make improvements to the Hawk Talk system. These include: partnering with additional campus experts on topics like alcohol harm reduction and ending gender based violence.  We are also working to reduce the number of Hawk Talks RAs are asked to complete so they can have higher quality conversations and participate in ongoing training on effective relationship building and conversation skills,” said Danielle Barefoot, coordinator for curriculum and assessment.

Improvements to the REM Model
After reviewing data and feedback received last year, there have been several changes and improvements to REM that will impact the student experience. The biggest change was refining the 24 learning outcomes to 10 learning outcomes. This reduction in learning outcomes is helping the staff to better understand what students learn from living in the residence halls. With increased staff understanding, students should have a more seamless experience with REM.

In addition to reducing learning outcomes, University Housing and Dining has worked to redesign several trainings including the resident assistant (RA) class, professional staff training, and student staff training in order to help staff have increased capacity for a curricular approach to student learning. An alignment with practices such as student conduct, academic initiatives, and student leadership initiatives will assist in having a more integrated approach to achieving the educational priority of helping students advance their personal awareness to be responsible members of their communities.

Having more defined outcomes will allow University Housing and Dining staff to focus on helping students learn outside of the classroom. By engaging with their peers, hall staff, Living Learning Communities, and campus resources, students in the residence halls have a rich environment to be successful at the University of Iowa.