Your students have high expectations for your University Housing and Residence Life teams, specifically when it comes to curating a dynamic residential experience. You’re expected to manage and answer day-to-day resident inquiries, develop exemplary social activities, and of course, be present for emotional support and mental health challenges that occur–you and your team are in high demand. But for Housing & Res Life staff, the question of how to build an inclusive community is always top-of-mind.
When your team is dealing with the added pressures of the shifting challenges – while lacking resources, time, and staff – it can be difficult to live up to residents’ expectations. Based on our Res Life partners and thought leaders across the globe, we’ve created 4 best practices to help your Housing and Res Life Staff proactively foster inclusive communities for your residents with the help of a community-building and insights platform.
1. Create secure and brave spaces for discussion and easy access to resources
Living away from home, especially for the first time, can be daunting and overwhelming. Residents must have access to supportive resources and confidants through this milestone transitional experience. With a Residence Life community-building platform, provide one-tap access to critical resources through the method they know best–their phones.
A Res Life community-building platform is an authenticated hub, only accessible to community members. Everyone can confidently know that only Res Life staff and residents are in the community for safe and secure connectivity.
This is an incredible opportunity to openly promote mental and physical well-being. Remove barriers and stigma around mental health issues and amplify critical resources through your digital community.
Leverage the capabilities to expand your overall reach. Resident Assistants (RAs) and Dons can communicate with residents via channels based on residential buildings and floors, RAs and Dons can collaborate via group messages, or connect with residents who prefer to ask questions 1:1 with direct messages. Save your staff ample time by sending scheduled posts to resources, and allocate more time to support the well-being of your residents.
2. Build and nurture university specific communities
Give residents the power to connect with their community prior to move-in day. With a Res Life platform, residents can search the community directory for their roommate, initiate introductions, virtually meet other residents from their specific building, and talk to their RA/Don.
Getting a jump start on these initial introductions helps nervous residents feel more comfortable and develop a sense of community and belonging in advance of the big move in day.
Empower your student leaders with the tools to excel at their job, give them the power to provide prompts and guidelines to help students network and explore their new environment. They’ll be more than ready to begin coaching students to find information that they will both consume and engage. With students more confident in their surroundings and with better access to resources, reduce the administrative effort on your team’s part fielding basic questions about where to find information because they know exactly where to find it and stay connected with their new community.
3. Adopt communication tools that cut through the clutter
As part of a thriving residential experience, students want to discover the best ways to get involved. A community-building platform gives them a dedicated location to embrace this new period and shape their own experience by allowing them to sift through and find relevant activities and events to get involved in.
Instead of your staff spending ample time manually inputting and announcing new activities happening campuswide, your platform can automatically compile opportunities through existing calendar sources such as your university website or various student organization calendars.
Your staff can then focus on the creative brainstorming and executing of programming efforts. Want to market your initiatives? Utilize custom topics to categorize what your programming is about to give students even more direction toward experiences and opportunities that’ll help strengthen their sense of campus belonging.
4. Keep data and user analytics in-house
What’s the key to learning how to build an inclusive community? Tracking and demonstrating all the incredible work you and your team do by keeping your data and user analytics in-house. As opposed to outsourcing your residents’ member data to third-party social media platforms, opt for a secure and reliable community-building and insights platform where you can both drive and manage your engagement, as well as to measure your output. Gather all pivotal resident details such as discovering which topics resonate the most, pinpointing what type of events interests them, which communication tool best reaches them, and using this knowledge to enhance your programming and maximize outreach efforts.
By following these 4 strategies, Housing & Res Life professionals can get a jumpstart on discovering how to build an inclusive community that both their residents, student leaders, and staff will benefit from.