Since August, residents in Hardey-Cushing have experienced a new type of interaction with their Resident Assistants (RAs) as part of the Pathways Initiative. Developed by the Office of Residential Life, the program aims to foster community growth and development in smaller resident communities.
“If you were to bottle it up it would be the integration of everything that is the academic experience,” said George Arey, interim director of Residential Life. “The three pieces, the social, the intellectual, and the spiritual are all being pulled together.”
Specifically, the program lowers the resident-to-RA ratio, creates weekly programming options for residents, and aims to foster relationships between floormates and their RAs.
“The grand scheme of things is that we want you, as a first year student, to know more people, to have a better social network, and to have an understanding of what it means to be a part of this institution,” Arey said.
Now, two months into the pilot program, the Office of Residential Life has gained a significant amount of knowledge on how the program is shaping up. Program administrators have aimed to collect information from a variety of sources in order to evaluate and improve the program as it progresses through its first year of implementation.
“We’re putting together some measures to really look at what the students are taking away from the experience of living in Hardey and Cushing, and also how we can use that to change our program philosophy,” said Christopher Darcy, associate direct of Residential Life.
Pathways program manager Catherine-Mary Rivera echoed Darcy’s sentiments.
“We are creating multiple tools to get different perspectives,” she said. “We’re doing a combination of focus groups, which are small group question and answer groups, as well as observations—taking as much note and detail as we can.”
Rivera also described the importance of “quicktime assessments,” where RAs and staff get feedback from residents immediately after events. The Office of Residential Life is also working with Campus Labs, an external company that Rivera described as “experts in the assessment field” who are helping the program managers analyze the success of the program.
The implementation of the program has not been without difficulty, however. Administrators pointed out that there has been a learning curve associated with the program’s development, even with several years of planning. Darcy and Elizabeth Teurlay, Hardey-Cushing’s resident director, recently met with RAs to discuss both the challenges and the successes the program has seen over its two months of existence.
“I think we’re learning a tremendous amount,” Darcy said. “I would say right now that the RAs who are on the ground, day in and day out, gave us some fabulous feedback on things that they would like to see us make some adjustments to.”
Specifically, RAs pointed out the challenges in having what Darcy called, “a presence in the building.” Originally, RAs in the Pathways Initiative would be available in their rooms at specific times throughout the day, similar to the office hours of a professor. However, Darcy said that typically residents have been telling their RAs when they were available, rather than the other way around.
Teurlay said that the program has gained positive feedback from residents.
“Some of the comments that are starting to float up to my office are that residents feel bad that other students don’t have the same opportunities for weekly programs,” Teurlay said. “That’s really positive feedback as we’re starting to see the differences.”
Though the Office of Residential Life has been planning Pathways for some time, Darcy emphasized that the program would still need to be fine-tuned.
“We’re trying to look at the goals of the program, to see if they’re attainable and if they’re what’s necessary for our first year students,” Darcy said. “It’s important that we look at the program in a variety of different ways.”
The program was planned as a one year pilot in Hardey-Cushing that would lead to an eventual roll out in all freshmen residence halls. However, due to the program’s development, Darcy said the pilot would be extended to two years.
“We’re going to keep learning, keep making a difference, and be open,” Darcy said.