Over 14,000 students returned to on-campus life at Rutgers last week, moving into apartments, halls, towers, and quads across the Livingston, Busch, Douglass, College Ave, and Cook-Douglass campuses. However, while Move-In might be many students’ first interaction with Residence Life this semester, Residence Life, like many other departments in the Division of Student Affairs, has been preparing for them for months.
Rutgers student posing with their parent during Move-In
For example, one crucial part of on-campus life—the residence halls themselves—were the focus of ongoing repairs and maintenance, check-ins, and walk-throughs over the summer.
“In summer, we have regular meetings with campus partners in Facilities and Operations to make sure that buildings are ready for students in the fall,” said Kevin Killen, associate director for Residence Life administration and operations.
“On top of that,” Killen added, “during Move-In, we have extra support from Facilities teams that are on-site and readily available to our residents to address any issues that they might have.”
Steve Dubiago, senior director of University Facilities, Operations, and Services, echoed Killen’s emphasis on building preparation and inter-divisional communication.
“Housing Facilities is committed to providing quality service to our residents, including a safe, clean, sanitary, and functional living environment,” Dubiago said. “Regular communication and team interactions with Residence Life professionals at the campus level is critical to our success.”
While preparing for students in the summer, Residence Life also plans the broad strokes of its programming for the fall semester, making sure that their resources for support and programming initiatives meet the needs of the student body.
“A lot of what we’ve heard from students is that they want to socialize with each other,” said Rosemary Genao, Residence Life Campus Director for Livingston Campus. “We recognize we’re still in a pandemic, so when planning our initiatives and programs, we look for ways to host programs that will be safe for our communities and engage our students.”
One key aspect of Residence Life preparation kicked off in late July, when they began training new and returning professional staff.
“The staff training ensures that we’re on the same page and understand university protocol,” said Genao. “We have a lot of discussion about the things we need to do to ensure that our students are safe and successful academically, socially, and personally within their spaces on campus with us.”
After the professional staff receive their training, Resident Assistants (RAs) and various student staff are trained in mid-August, where they learn how to follow departmental protocol, host programs, and build community in their residence halls.
“The RAs participate in a training program that includes programming development, interpersonal conflict management, as well as life safety awareness training,” said Nate Johnson, interim director for Residence Education.
Like Johnson, Genoa emphasized the importance of RAs.
“Our student staff are student ambassadors for Residence Life, and they’re the community builders that we have within the residence halls,” said Genao. “It’s important that we have the time to train them for the semester.”
In the run-up to the semester, Residence Life also ensured that the main logistical elements of Move-In Weekend—picking up keys and unloading belongings—would run as smoothly as possible through detailed instructions for students and families, as well as through Residence Life Move-In Teams, groups of upper-class student volunteers that help unload belongings from vehicles into residence halls.
“Residence Life has been planning Move-In since the beginning of spring 2022, and our plan was designed to alleviate traffic lines as much as possible,” said Killen. “Our Move-In Teams are obviously huge parts of that, as they do a ton of work to get students’ cars emptied.”
A Move-In Team at Lippincott Hall poses for a photo
And, as the semester begins, Residence Life focuses on getting students settled into campus.
“In the first week or so, we of course connect them to the programs in Welcome Week,” said Michael Tolbert, Senior Director of Residence Life. “We encourage our students to try different activities, such as going to dinner with their floormates, and we will continue to engage our students the best way that we can.”
That work will continue throughout the semester, as Residence Life continues to build community and connect students with necessary resources like the Residence Life Student Support Team, the Dean of Students Office, and Student Health, among many more.
Still, to Genao, the enthusiasm with which Residence Life approaches its work is one of the most important parts of its success.
“A lot of time and effort goes into the student experience from the perspective of Residence Life, Facilities, and Division of Student Affairs,” she said. “And I think that we do our work with a lot of enthusiasm because we know the positive impact that we can have on students, whether we solve their problem, connect them to a resource, listen to them during a difficult time, or help them navigate the University system.”
“This year, we will see people starting to trust these community spaces again,” he said. “In Residence Life, we’re hoping to show that on-campus life can contribute to personal and professional growth for our students.”