Q & A with Karen Rosenblum, Vice President for University Life
Posted: August 12, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
Editor’s note: Over the summer, the Daily Gazette will publish interviews with 11 deans, 2 institute directors, and the vice president for University Life focusing on what was successful in their departments last year and what the George Mason community can expect this year. This is the eighth article in the series.
By Jeremy Lasich
What would you say were the high points of the 2002-03 academic year for University Life?
Certainly the renovation of University Life offices in SUB I, and especially the renovation of Student Health Services come to mind. The renovation not only gave us more attractive and more useable space, it facilitated the movement toward a more cohesive program of services for students by merging programs such as Student Health Services, Substance Abuse Programs and Services, Health Education, and Sexual Assault Services into a common space that facilitates communication and thus, the provision of services for students.
On the programmatic side, University Life completed its third year of designing and implementing a process by which to assess the learning outcomes of our activities and services. In the previous year we had developed a common assessment instrument, and in 2002-03 audiences in all of our programs were asked to fill out the form to help us pursue the evaluation. Now we have a way to make data-driven decisions about programming and the student audiences we are hoping to serve. In the process, we also learned that our programs serve in the neighborhood of 30,000 students.
Are you adding any new staff members or programs that the university community should be aware of?
The increased residential population and the fact that all students are seeing higher tuition and fee bills has really pushed us to use the increased fee funding toward activities that students have long asked for. So in the upcoming year we will offer a variety of new services. For example, Student Health Services has contracted with a company to provide an After Hours Nurse Line, which allows students to talk with a nurse when Student Health Services is closed. The nurse can help students decide whether they need to be seen immediately or whether they can wait until the office is open again.
Student Health will be working with the Cadet Corp to arrange for transportation for students who are sick or hurt. Assistance with transportation may involve getting the student from one of the dorms to SUB I on the Fairfax Campus or taking the student to the hospital or other after-hours emergency care facility when Student Health Services is closed. Student Health will also have enough staff to provide gynecological exams and it will house a pharmacy stocked with a limited supply of medications that can be used to fill prescriptions written by the providers in Student Health Services.
Apart from the Student Health Services additions, Career Services will be able to eliminate the $10 fee students have had to pay to access the university’s roster of potential employers and internship sites. We will also provide more funding for student social events on campus, and we have organized a weekend late night shuttle that will run until 3:30 a.m. to provide students access to Fairfax City restaurants and nightspots. Thanks to the work of University Services, there will be more dining options and extended hours throughout the week, and a new Johnson Center coffee shop that will remain open until 2 a.m. And thanks to the work of Recreational Sports, there will be much more in the way of outdoor play areas and recreation equipment.
What are some of your goals for the upcoming year?
In the upcoming year, we’ll need to focus on realizing the pledge implied by the improved services and programs I just described. It’s one thing to provide funding to create activities on campus, but it’s quite another to help students generate successful activities–just like opening a coffee shop does not guarantee that it will be an inviting and successful programming venue.
Next year, I also hope University Life can explore ways to better communicate with students. The university’s graduating senior survey showed far too many students unaware of all that was available to them. While we advertise all the time, our traditional approaches are not adequate to the task.
How have the budget cuts over the last few years affected University Life?
The combination of budget cuts and enrollment growth, and the fact that our offices handle whole students rather than FTE’s, has meant that we have had more students and fewer professionals to address their needs, even though we were understaffed beforehand. The results have run the gamut–longer wait lists to see the university’s counseling psychologists, the suspension of outreach to potential employers of our students, support staff having to fill in for an insufficient number of professionals, and over-reliance on student workers. Perhaps worst of all, University Life staff report that students now routinely preface their requests with an apology: “I hate to ask you this, because I know you are so busy, but could you…”
What are some of the challenges facing University Life in the upcoming year?
Addressing the needs of both a growing and changing student body will remain our broadest challenge. At the same time, we need ways to get the word out about the clear improvement we are seeing in students’ satisfaction with campus life. While we certainly have a way to go, ours is increasingly a campus where students are happy with their experience in and out of the classroom.
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