‘More Than a Place to Sleep’
SCU’s Vice Provost for Student Life Jeanne Rosenberger talks about the new year and explains how residence halls allow students to interact and engage with their community.
As the new academic year kicks off, Vice Provost for Student Life Jeanne Rosenberger reflects on what lies ahead, what excites her, and what students need to know.
Students will be returning to campus soon. Are there any new student life programs on the horizon or changes to existing programs that are noteworthy?
JR: Benson Memorial Center is going through the first phase of a substantial renovation and rejuvenation that will welcome students back to an entirely redesigned first floor. One of the goals of the renovation is to create more social spaces—lounge spaces, meeting spaces, and spaces for conversation.
We are also well underway with Finn Residence Hall. Although it won't open until fall of 2019, we’ll be doing a lot of planning this year. We received great feedback from students, faculty and staff regarding the RLC theme, and will be working to bring that theme to life at the start of next year.
How do Jesuit universities and Santa Clara approach student life and living on campus?
JR: We use the term residence halls as opposed to dorms. We want students to see that their residence hall is more than just a place to sleep; it’s about interacting and engaging with their peers. All of our students come into the University through the residential learning communities, where they have an opportunity to interact with faculty, staff, and campus ministry. We want them to understand that their education happens in all corners of the campus.
Our approach is really one of a culture of care. We hope that students will find a listening ear wherever they find themselves. But we also want them to know that there is a community of people here who are proud of them and want to help celebrate their successes. As a Jesuit school, we talk a lot about cura personalis, caring for the whole person. That’s the lens with which we do our work. We see it as a privilege to work with students, to engage with them, to help them be successful.
Santa Clara has been putting great effort towards encouraging students to be good neighbors. Why is that important?
JR: It’s really important for the University and for our students to see themselves as part of the larger community. We all need to be good neighbors and that starts with students recognizing that their behaviors have an impact—good and bad. We have made a concerted effort to help students understand why being a good neighbor matters and what our expectations are. We are quick to remind them that there are consequences if they make choices that impact our neighbors negatively.
What message do you have for the neighboring community? How might they benefit from living close to campus? What should they do if they see something that is not as it should be?
JR: I hope the neighbors will see the University as something they can be a part of. You don't have to be a student to take advantage of the multitude of things we offer here. For me, being on campus is really hopeful and positive; the energy of the students gives me hope for the future. So, I’d really encourage our neighbors to engage in the life of the campus.
On the flip side, if they observe behaviors that are counter to our expectations, they should reach out. The office of Off Campus Living is right on Market Street. They’re our primary liaison with the off-campus community.
In what ways is the University reaching out to students who live off campus to provide guidance and information around codes of compliance, issues of conduct, neighborly responsibilities, etc.?
JR: At the beginning of every year, we do a walkabout with Off Campus Living, student government, and the Santa Clara police. They go to about 200 residences in teams to outline expectations, provide resources about codes, and give tips. We’ve found that going door to door is very effective.
On the first weekend of the school year, we do a community meeting that is required for all first-year students. It includes representatives from Santa Clara Police, Campus Safety, the Office of Student Life, SCU EMS, and our violence prevention program, among others. That's key. As soon as students set foot on campus, we begin the conversation about how their behaviors can impact the community—positively and negatively.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
JR: Without question, it’s when I can be with the students. I’m most proud of the moments when students identify a way to improve Santa Clara. Maybe the idea came out of a complaint or a concern, but they just dive in. I love working with them to remove barriers and give support. One of the best examples is the EMT program. It started with two students who saw a need and set out to fill it. Here we are 20 years later. We have 40 student EMTs and I don’t think we could imagine the campus without it.
The days when I look at my calendar and I have students on my calendar, those are my best days.
It's important that our neighbors know we really are committed to improving our relationship with the local community—our neighbors, property owners, and longtime residents. We also acknowledge that a portion of our students graduate and move away every year and a new group moves off campus. So, we ask for a bit of patience early on; we are not ignoring bad behavior. We will continue our efforts to be a good neighbor as an institution and to encourage our students to be good neighbors.
What advice do you have for parents as they drop their students off for the start of a new academic year?
JR: I tell parents to encourage their students to be their own self-advocate. When their student calls to say “Can you solve this problem for me?” rather than swoop in and fix it, I’d urge parents to ask “How might you solve that yourself?” It’s important to help give students the confidence to advocate for themselves.
The other piece of advice I give to parents is to urge their students to take advantage of everything SCU has to offer. When students are encouraged to explore different avenues of opportunity, they almost always say how grateful they are that it opened brand new experiences.