Trustees review strategic plan
Joe Trombello | Wednesday, March 17, 2004
The student affairs strategic plan, a portion of the University’s overall strategic plan outlining Notre Dame’s goals for the next 20 years, was met with positive feedback by Trustees at their February meeting, according to Ann Firth, executive assistant to the vice president for student affairs.Firth said that the Board provided feedback on numerous portions of the strategic plan but said they were especially interested in the residential life section.”Residential life is a key area because it’s so central to student life at Notre Dame,” she said. “That’s one [section] that generated a lot of feedback.”The student affairs plan calls for modifications and growth in six areas, including campus facilities, residential life, student development and faith formation, student services, diversity and technology and outlines ways of improving conditions in all of these areas. The plan proposed renovations of the University Health Center, an expansion of the LaFortune student center and a closer collaboration with the Center for Social Concerns, among numerous other proposals.”All of the six areas … have been a good framework for thinking about student life into the future,” Firth said.The plan also calls for the creation of at least four new residence facilities within the next decade. The construction of these buildings is intended both to alleviate overcrowding of dorms and to provide space to increase the on-campus capacity. In 2001, 76 percent of undergraduate students resided on-campus. The plan hopes to increase this rate to between 81 to 83 percent by encouraging fewer upperclassmen to move off-campus.However, the plan does not stipulate exactly how the residence facilities will be constructed, and Firth said that numerous focus groups and surveys have been conducted to give current students a voice in what the future residence halls will look like. The plan notes that “the construction of new residence facilities might also make possible other housing options, including coeducational housing and the creation of smaller, ‘themed’ residential communities within a larger facility.” Apartment-style housing for upperclassmen is also being exploredFirth said that Office of Student Affairs sent out about 1,000 surveys in February to undergraduates asking for their input, and notes that focus group discussions have also been held. Firth said that focus groups would continue to take place in the future.”We are still very much in the process of gathering information,” she said. “It’s been a very productive process.”Firth said that results of the surveys are not currently available, as the office is also in the process of creating a similar survey for graduate students to be administered before the end of the academic year.”The committee [on Residential Life] has said that they will make those results public … it’s just been a busy time for the collection of the information,” she said. “We hope that we will capture … the student experience of residence life at Notre Dame. We’re asking current students to think about the future with us.”Keri Oxley, a senior and student representative on the committee, said that she and other members have been satisfied with student participation in the surveys and focus groups.”We are pleased with the percentage of students that responded to the survey request,” she said. “This is proof of the student body’s commitment to residential life on our campus.”Oxley said that the committee, which consists of students, faculty, administrators, alumni and rectors, meets weekly to explore issues relating to the future of residential life. She added that the committee plans to create a report that compiles the results of the student surveys, feedback from focus groups and discussions in committee to Father Mark Poorman, vice president for Student Affairs.Oxley also said that she is pleased with the open-mindedness of committee members with respect to residential housing options and encourages students to voice their input to committee members.”I have been amazed at the committee’s openness to innovative ideas as we consider the future of residential life,” she said. “We appreciate all input and take it into consideration as we develop our recommendations for the 10-year plan.” Firth said the construction of any new residence areas would not occur soon. She estimates the process could begin to occur anywhere from four to eight years in the future. The Board of Trustees will formally vote on the approval of the entire University strategic plan at its May meeting.