Visible and invisible changes to improve life in Brock Residences

Lowenberger

Residences at Brock University have undergone changes this summer — some more visible than others — and several more are planned. Jamie Fleming, the Director of Residences, discussed the initiatives that students will benefit from in the coming year. Having worked at Brock for over 30 years, Fleming has spearheaded countless updates at the university.

Fleming highlighted the ongoing proximity card project on campus. Some residence students will be able to lock and unlock their rooms by tapping their student card to the proximity card reader installed on their door. However, not all rooms have been switched over to this new system — largely because of the complexities of updating the infrastructure in large buildings such as DeCew and Village Residences. Fleming described this project as an “opportunity to move things forward while still providing safety and security by using technology, and making it seamless for the students.”

Rumours about a large-scale renovation of DeCew residence have circulated for years. Fleming addressed these, as the redesign plans have “yet to receive approval at the highest ranks of the university, however efforts have been made to investigate and plan for what could be a very major redevelopment.” Brock’s oldest residence building is due for an update to the infrastructure, according to Fleming, who noted that, “some of the social spaces, community spaces, and gathering spaces that were initially for students have, over literally decades, been taken away and we’re hoping to return them to student use.” The department will keep several offices in DeCew, while others will relocate — and have already moved — to other buildings on campus.

Many students may not have known that the Residence Life Staff has been expanded this year, as one of many changes made behind the scenes in the department’s ongoing commitment to growth. Hiring more Dons and
Head Residents was “meant to level the number of students per don, and dons per head resident.” This has meant separating DeCew into two separate teams, each led by a different Head Resident, and further breaking down Village into four teams, adding a Village East team to the existing trio. Increasing the number of student staff hired is not a new concept for the Department of Residences. Fleming pointed out positions such as the academic don, don of activities, and residence education don as somewhat recent changes that have improved the student experience.

Training for the Residence Life staff has expanded, as well, including a new online component. The online training program; Being a Resident Assistant 101, known simply as RA101, is a module created by the Association of College and University Housing Officers — International, to supplement the training of Resident Assistants, Dons, and other paraprofessionals working in post-secondary housing. When asked what prompted the decision to invest in this training program, Fleming explained that the department is “always evolving. [They’re] always looking at what else might be out there that might possibly be better.” They implement feedback processes through several channels, sent in by students, student staff, and professional staff, to evaluate potential areas of growth.

Another behind-the-scenes decision made to make the residence experience seamless for students was to forego the annual change in operation of the North Service Desk, located in DeCew. Historically, Conference Services takes on operation of the desk after students move out for the year. This year, the service desk staff continued to provide service at the desk throughout the spring and summer terms. Fleming noted this benefited the summer conference business, as “there wasn’t the very steep learning curve for the new staff that were coming in at a very, very busy time “which made for a better experience for conference guests, for students, but also for departments within the university.” He describes the full-year service desk staff as “seasoned” and “well-informed” staff members.

While it is easy to focus on individual changes and the work that goes into implementing them, Fleming highlighted the reason behind the changes in the department is ultimately simple: improving the lives of students.

“We just hope that everybody has a very positive experience in residence and as a Brock student from the moment they choose to attend Brock until they walk across the stage at convocation,” said Fleming.

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