Transition to Student Engagement Office

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

This year, the Offices of Residential Life and Student Activities have combined to form the Office of Student Engagement (OSE). This change was intended to expand the office to better provide support and resources to students and student groups, since 96% of students currently live in campus residence halls.

As the graphic below depicts, Rachel Head, former assistant Dean of Residential Life, now directs the office, with Mike Elias and Isaiah Thomas as the Assistant Directors of Student Activities and Residential life, respectively. Karina Beras is the new Residential Communities Coordinator (RCC), a new role intended to provide on-campus support on weekends, similar to the previous “dean on call,” as well as assist in other OSE duties. Another new RCC is scheduled to be hired before the end of September.

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The OSE staff aim tol be non-hierarchical, all-purpose resources for students and student groups to utilize whenever they have questions or issues regarding residential life. Students are encouraged to form close relationships with the members of the OSE and should be able to go to any staff member with any question, regardless of whether it is related to that staff member’s specific role. According to Head, “We’re small enough to say these things in general, but if you’re more comfortable with Karina then you should go to Karina. If you have something for Mike and Mike’s not there, you should be able to go to Isaiah and he will give you the same consistent answer.“

On top of the new administrators, there will also be student interns available who can assist groups in event planning, budgeting, and advertising their events, as well as provide general knowledge about the OSE.

Previously, planning events required approval from multiple parties such as the Student Affairs Committee, Swaudio, Public Safety, etc. The OSE will soon have a website to streamline this process with all the necessary paperwork for planning events to draw all the approval processes for these parties together in one location.

Mike Elias, Director of Student Activities, stressed the office will work to emphasize collaboration across different groups and resources on campus, saying, “I think there are a lot of ways we can overlap in terms of the things that are happening on campus since it is such a residential community. When there is a big program happening, we can go out and find that collaboration. Nina did wonderful bystander intervention trainings last year before GenderF, the RAs can do their education in the hall, Student Activities can do event planning, so it’s a lot more people who are able to not just have first contact and get direct feedback from students, but also connect with other resources on campus as well.”

The new OSE will be in the basement of Parrish, with a newly renovated lounge space where students can collect as they meet to plan events, in the room that previously housed the Phonathon room.

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