Strategic Directions

Drop Shadow

Student Life: Open Forum, March 15, 2005

[pdf file for printing]

Facilitators: Beth Dobkin, Merrick Marino

Merrick said there were two main questions: Of the workshop ideas presented, which jump out as the top two or three priorities? There are three main categories of ideas: academic life experiences, social and extracurricular experiences, and facilities. How should academic experiences and extracurricular experiences complement each other? Does USD need to create a social life for students? What is USD’s role in planning social experiences for students? How do we make our facilities more open and useful for students? He also wants to include a little time for additional ideas that people can express concisely. The purpose of the forum is to identify priorities.

Beth suggested that we use this forum as a study in process. Which are the ideas we want to move forward on? Choose one or two things that are important now to serve as a catalyst to move us along.

Comments from Forum Participants

Academic Life Experiences

  • Focus on Orientation as a place to begin integrating all the other ideas—that students are accountable to each other, accountable to the community standards. Establish the expectations for students at Orientation.
  • We need to reconceptualize Orientation. It’s an event that occurs before classes start, but it should probably be a part of students’ entire first year. We need to prioritize what has to be done right away, before classes start, vs. what needs to be phased in over the course of the first year. We should reinvent Orientation so that it’s not just a first week experience any more.
  • Orientation follows a very tight schedule—we try to cram everything into that first week. Faculty expectations, community standards.
  • We need to stress accountability and personal responsibility—that students are responsible for their own lives—not their parents, not USD.
  • A third of our students are graduate students, and we need to pay more attention to graduate students’ needs. We should think about having a graduate student orientation.
  • We’ve moved to being an 8:00-5:00 campus. We need to look at how we can expand our services beyond those hours to create a greater sense of community. We may need a place for “adults” to hang out.
  • Starting at classes at 9:00 a.m. would be a problem logistically. But it might make sense to schedule early graduate student classes to use those rooms so graduate students could take classes before going to work in the morning.
  • We need to emphasize a senior portfolio as a place for students to integrate their experiences over the four years that they’re here.
  • Bringing alumni into the classroom to explain their experiences since graduating from USD is also a good idea.

Extracurricular and Social Life Experiences

  • It’s an interesting question about what kind of social life we need to create for our students. We set the tone when they first get here by providing so much for them, but we may not be providing what our students really want.
  • We either need to create a college life experience on campus or expect students to go elsewhere. Mission Beach has become a second USD campus. Creating a campus life would include expanding food service on weekends and creating open spaces where people can convene and hang out. The UC expansion could help with that.
  • As a graduating senior, I remember my first year was rough because I didn’t feel involved with other students. The organizations need to be more involved in reaching out to new students and creating a student atmosphere. Provide more information on what’s available, what they can do. Lots of students are shy and don’t get the information. We need to integrate clubs and organizations better into the first year experience and get the word out to students with better publicity.
  • Lots of times what we do on campus competes with the greater San Diego community. We have a huge city, and we need to create a program that supports getting students off campus to take advantage of what’s available in the city. We don’t need to recreate what’s already happening off campus. We don’t want students to think that USD is the only place they can go—they need to get out into the world. There are different educational experiences you get by going out into the world.
  • Students do desire to get off campus, but you have to have a car to do that. Only four people can fit in a car, so car cliques form. The people who don’t have a car or don’t get into a car clique just stay in their dorm rooms. We need better transportation off campus for all students.
  • There’s a wealth of cultural and intellectual activities on campus. We need to integrate those events with classes, to get students out to these activities—lectures, musical events, plays—to connect students socially and academically.
  • Graduate students want a place on campus where they can gather to eat and talk after class instead of having to go to Tio Leo’s. They get out of class at 10:00 and have nowhere on campus to go.
  • First semester is tough for a new freshman—it’s hard to get involved. I’m social, but not that heavily involved in clubs.
  • There’s way too much programming, lots of events. It would be good to be able to tie academics and social events together better so that we could downsize on programming. We also have a phenomenal Community Service Learning program and the Romero Center.
  • We need to be more proactive for the different types of students coming in. We need to know their issues, their interests. If we find out these things before they arrive, we can be proactive in planning instead of reactive.

Beth’s summary: We need better integration of resources for students during the first year, and do a better job of integrate social and academic experiences. Rather than trying to compete with the beach, we should create a college town atmosphere on campus.

Campus Facilities

  • By having facilities open, students convene. If students know that the facilities are available, they’ll eventually congregate there and create a campus synergy for both undergrads and graduate students. It’s not unexpected that we’re identified with a beach community since we provide no opportunities here. Students might as well go to the beach.
  • I moved off campus because there are affordable options if you’re not right on the beach.
  • We need a public square. We routinely conduct signage campaigns on the ground. Maybe students aren’t allowed to post signs on our Spanish Renaissance campus, so they’re forced to use the sidewalks and look down instead of out.
  • We’ve shrunk the space available for students. We want the UC expansion to provide places where people want to hang out. You won’t have to program anything—people will just come because they want to be there.
  • Sports Center is way off on the corner of campus. We need ping pong and games in the UC near more food services.
  • The UC is great gathering place, but business students are down on the other end of campus and never make it up to the UC. Could we improve the Olin Hall student lounge for them?
  • When the KIPJ building was constructed, people didn’t foresee how heavily La Paloma would be used.
  • Students want extended library hours, particularly on the weekends.
  • Can we be a wireless campus? People communicate so differently now. People are always on their cell phones. The health survey said that student have a problem with being able to get off the Internet, and that interferes with their ability to learn academically. Being wireless might help because students could be on their laptops with a group instead of closed up in their rooms with their computers.
  • JCP workout facility is packed all hours—need more workout facilities. Expanded weightroom, expanded aerobics. Not classes, but drop-in stuff. Right now, the place you’re supposed to stretch before you exercise is a heavy foot traffic area.
  • The gym could be four times larger and it would still be full. How about some guided tours, like bike tours and walking tours at set times? Doing a survey to see what students want to do before they get here and planning for that is a good idea.
  • Campus needs to renovate and expand the existing exercise facilities. They’re major social gathering places on campus.
  • As our residence halls are becoming overcrowded, we’re losing common space in the residence halls.
  • Everything doesn’t have to be at the sports center. We could have clubs in the valley, or part of a residence hall dedicated to exercise equipment.
  • At UC Davis, we had a huge fitness center, and people came from all over because it was such a social place. I came to San Diego because of the job opportunities, but USD needs spaces for grad students to gather and to eat.
  • Little things like cleaning up the wastebaskets before the grad students arrived for evening classes might make the place more welcoming for them.

Implementation Strategies

  • Beth sees the top two ideas as first year experience and informal social spaces for students. These are the ideas that have emerged most often. What areas or constituencies should be involved in planning for them?
  • The first year experience committee is looking at an integrated educational experience for the first two years. We need students on that committee to share their insights to develop an effective implementation strategy.
  • Is there a way to approach the students who aren’t normally heard? Instead of getting the same group of students involved in everything, we could get a student who was new to the experience—a second semester freshman, for example. Maybe a new student and an experienced student for a more balanced perspective.
  • I came from the University of Kansas—they just got a very nice exercise facility. Students were willing to raise their fees to build it, and are willing to raise fees again to build an auditorium.
  • How do we find out what students are willing to pay for? Students don’t know what they’re paying for now. Where is their money going now?
  • Our students are very community focused, do Community Service Learning projects, but then when they get back to the USD community, they say, I already pay so much. This isn’t a solution—just a perspective.
  • If you raise tuition much more, a lot of people will not be able to afford to go here. Can we redirect some of the existing fees to accomplish these things?
  • The plans to remodel the UC will come with the request that students assess a fee on themselves. Why would students do this if they didn’t get what they wanted?
  • Is the JCP open to the public? Could we charge them fees to pay for services? [Response: Probably not.]
  • It sounds like a workout facility is a hot idea to be pursued. Who needs to come to the table to talk about the UC expansion? Students? Faculty?
  • We’ve heard the idea about expanding the gym several times. One way to approach the problem is to make the current center a 24 hour facility. We’d have more community spirit if we were a 24/7 operation. People who are early birds or night owls might be willing to exercise very early or very late.
  • Don’t cram everything into an expanded UC. Look into other facilities on campus to see if there are ways we can expand student space there.
  • This forum is saying, we want stuff all over campus. But there’s a big push for a new UC.
  • The new UC is supposed to be a focal point—one-stop shopping for student services like orientation, registration, financial aid, etc. That doesn’t prohibit us having more scattered gathering spaces as well.
  • We have to avoid the problem with one or two students on every committee.