Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017
More than 75 Virginia Commonwealth University faculty and staff representing more than 40 departments welcomed the newest VCU students to their new homes last week at the university’s annual House Calls program.
The House Calls, which take place in freshmen residence halls, provide faculty and staff a chance to interact with students in their new “homes” before the semester begins. Faculty and staff, paired with a resident assistant, knock on doors and distribute goodie bags while they connect with freshmen students. The program is hosted by Residential Life and Housing.
“The Residence Hall House Calls program is a great way to interact with students in their own homes,” said Megan Thurston, associate director of residential life and the program leader for House Calls. “The purpose of this program is to utilize key faculty and administrators in providing additional outreach to residence hall students as well as assist students by addressing any questions or concerns they have about their experience at VCU.”
Some students this year even met a special guest: Charles Klink, Ph.D., senior vice provost for student affairs.
“We knew we were having house calls but we didn't know we were going to have a special guest and also Rodney the Ram show up at our door,” said Luleit Shire, a freshman in the Department of Political Science and in the pre-pharmacy track.
“[Meeting staff] definitely makes us feel much closer to the faculty because Welcome Week I feel like is a lot more about knowing each other,” said Shire. “We don't normally get to spend time with important faculty and people on campus. It was definitely a good surprise.”
Klink agrees that the chance to welcome first-year students, talk with them in their place of residence and spend quality time listening to them, is not an opportunity that happens often.
“I believe in the concept of meeting students where they are — sometimes this means meeting them where they are developmentally, educationally and at times, literally, where they live,” said Klink. “It is such a powerful statement that VCU faculty and staff take the time to let students know that we are here to support their success figuratively and literally.”
“From this experience, I have learned what a tremendously talented RA staff we have, how committed faculty and staff are to the success of students and, most importantly, what a wonderful group of first-year students have chosen VCU as their new home away from home,” said Klink.
Klink was paired with resident assistant Eleanor Ritzman, a junior in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences. This was Ritzman’s second experience with the House Calls program. Like many RAs, she was looking forward to the unique experience.
“I was really full of excitement to meet Dr. Klink,” said Ritzman. “I honestly think that being able to create these connections with not only VCU Residential Life but also the residents that come with it is just a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially in college.”
One of Ritzman’s residents, freshman Leyla Zyoud, heard about the House Calls program directly from Ritzman.
“At first I was kind of nervous because my RA said that Dr. Klink was coming,” said Zyoud. “The experience was nice. I thought that they were really friendly and it wasn't overwhelming at all like I thought it would be.”
In a week when many first-year students feel overwhelmed, the House Calls program aims to help them feel at ease as they settle into their new home. The program also provides a chance for resident assistants, like Ritzman, to serve as resources for students.
“The fact that I’m able to work with these wonderful people as well as give them the resources that they give me to hand off to my residents, is just something that is irreplaceable,” said Ritzman. “I'm really happy to be that resource for my students.”
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