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Residence Life Prepared to Assist New UA Students
Editor's Note: Reporters are welcome to cover Wildcat Welcome activities. Events begin Aug. 15 and end Aug. 24. UA President Robert Shelton will be helping students move in on Aug. 16 from 10 a.m.-noon at Coronado Hall. The majority of students will be moving-in Aug. 16 through 18.
University of Arizona President Robert Shelton and 219 resident assistants will greet over 5,000 incoming freshmen students moving into their new residence hall on Thursday, Aug. 16.
These incoming freshmen, the graduating class of 2011, will be calling the UA residence halls home this semester and most will be transitioning to a new lifestyle of communal living.
Pam Obando, associate director of residence life communications and outreach, takes a poll each year and asks new incoming freshmen during orientation to raise their hands if at home they have their own bedroom and then asks the same about a bathroom. Over the years, she has seen the number increase to its current average of 75 percent and 50 percent respectively.
"The changing dynamic helps us understand how much work we have ahead of us in getting our new students acclimated to a whole new way of living," Obando said.
The UA Residence Life team supports the transition through the everyday supervisory work of hall and complex directors who oversee the work of resident assistants living on every floor and wing of the halls.
The team has its hands full, all 5,800 bed spaces are full including 323 graduate accommodations and there is still a waiting list of 650 students who want in.
Those who are moving-in will find the residence life team waiting to get to know them and ensure that a Residence Life Roommate Lifestye Agreement is completed by everyone residing in the halls. "The agreement is essential for initiating productive communication with what is essentially a stranger," Obando said.
The agreement sets the expectations for the new roommates' behavior toward one another ranging from sleeping patterns and study time, to sharing food and setting personal boundaries that help prevent future challenges.
The anxiety builds as students do not get to view their room or usually meet their roommate before the move-in date.
"Most incoming students are used to having their parents help them to resolve conflicts. We help the students learn how to resolve conflict on their own and understand respect for others and the need to compromise," Obando said.
Parents are provided with resources on this new transition too. The UA Parents and Family Association provides parents with monthly newsletters, online resources and advice on how to help new UA students adjust to a newfound independence.
Residence Life provides students with the contact information for their new roommate in advance so the new roommates can get to know one another and coordinate on common items they will share, such as microwaves, coffee makers, televisions, bookshelves, radios and telephones.
Obando said the most needed items that are forgotten are shower accessories. She said the least needed item is a heavy coat/winter jacket.
The rooms, though small, gain personality once the students move in and begin decorating. Obando recalled roommates who turned their closet into a microwave and pantry room stocked with soups and other canned goods to save money on eating out. Beds can be bunked to increase living area space, but there are limits to what students can do to their rooms.
Items can only be hung on walls with tape, so a 60-inch flat screen television for the wall is out of the question, not to mention impractical for a room no larger than 200 square feet.
"The most unique items we see have been Circuit City showroom size televisions, a harp and a freezer. The student's mother insisted her son needed the freezer in his room to store his semester supply of TV dinners. They are not allowed and there is just no room," Obando said.
Obando said that the benefits of residence hall living include an increased chance of academic success and the timely completion of a degree. Programs that increase this likelihood include living-learning communities within the halls that unite students with personal and academic interests. For example, Gila Hall hosts a women in science, engineering and math and Technology wing, Manzanita-Mohave Halls host a fine arts floor, Graham-Greenlee Hall hosts a health professions wing and Apache-Santa Cruz offers a psychology wing.
Additional residence hall benefits include free tutoring, a free workshop on the first-year college experience, diversity programs and social events.
"We definitely offer students more than a place to sleep," Obando said.