In lieu of student requests and reorganization of management, Student Life and the Commons have come together to form Campus Life, an initiative that, according to officials, will better reflect the mission to attend to all students’ needs.
With over 13,000 enrolled UMBC students and a significant commuter population, there is always a need to bridge the gap between students and the optimal programs and activities going on around campus. Although the respective staffs of Student Life and the Commons have worked adjacently to facilitate these programs, the general perception, according to Campus Life Director Daniel Barnhart, was that “there is not a lot to do” at UMBC given the lack of knowledge of campus activities for non-local and commuter students.
Most complaints geared towards the Commons and the Student Life facilities also coincided with the expressed need for “reserved spaces” for student clubs and organizations to thrive, says Barnhart.
In merging Student Life with the Commons, the goal has been to “reduce redundancies” with the tasks of Student Life and the Commons, in order to create a unified goal towards helping create a better climate for students. Both organizations have held traditionally similar roles in event organization and program planning for student engagement.
The Commons is cited to have been the “front-end” of events in regards to connecting with incoming students directly, while Student Life had a larger presence “behind the scenes” of event organizing. Such examples include the two Superbowl events that Student Life raised before and during Winter Welcome week to create a fun environment for incoming transfers and returning students.
In order to create their vision for Campus Life, Student Life and the Commons came together to blend the visions and values of their organizations with inspiration from several other campuses. In the fall of 2016, Student Life visited four different campuses—among them famous regional institutions like James Madison University, Stonybrook University and Georgetown University.
The idea to merge the Commons and Student Life started during the summer of 2016. Then in the fall of 2016, the campus tours around the four regionally acclaimed institutions belied. During these tours, Student Life and the Commons “observed what [these campuses] were doing with their programs and Campus Life Services.” In January of 2017, they observed that it would be the proper time to merge, and it was no quick transformation. From January of 2017 to the summer of 2017, it was agreed that both the Commons administration and the Student Life administration would “come together once or twice a month” and discuss the necessary changes for the establishment of the unified front Campus Life.
“[We] played around with names,” stated Barnhart in response to the discussion of these meetings. But ultimately, the staff conceded with ‘Campus Life’ as befitting for the goal in mind: connecting students with campus.
Barnhart said that though this is only the beginning of Campus Life, they are “excited to be taking Campus Life in a new direction.”