CUBO leads the way on Residence Life development

A new masterclass from The College and University Business Officers discusses the current residence life initiative in UK HE

The first CUBO and ACUHO-I Residence Life Masterclass took place in Leicester on 11–12 May. The event was organised by CUBO’s training partner, University Hospitality Seminars.

CUBO has been championing the development of residence life programmes in the UK for a number of years. The association first established a residence life group in early 2015, which held its first forum in November of the same year. This new joint event from CUBO and ACUHO-I represents a significant step forward with CUBO at the leading edge of residence life development in the UK. 

What is Residence Life?

The term ‘residence life’ was originally coined in the USA and Canada. It is the terminology used to describe the comprehensive programme that surrounds the experience of living and learning at university. Residence life services are designed to help students gain the most positive experience of living away from home.

As delegates of the CUBO/ACHUO-I masterclass are now well versed, one of the most important elements of residence life is its people. These teams work hard to build inclusive social communities within their student accommodation. The support is particularly important for new students, many of whom are living away from home for the first time. Helping them to meet with others and form friendship groups is vital. 

Residence life is a fast-growing area of campus provision within many UK institutions. The benefits include lower drop out rates, increased student safety, welfare and happiness, and ultimately improving both students’ social and academic experience. The growing pace of development in this area is evidenced by an increasing number of entries to the CUBO awards focusing on residence life initiatives.

Grant Walters, keynote speaker, Director of Educational Programs for ACUHO-I

The masterclass

This new event, which took place at College Court in Leicester, was fully booked with 60 delegates attending from both universities and private sector residential providers.

Opening the event was Grant Walters, Director of Educational Programs for ACUHO-I. ACUHO-I has been leading the development of residence life in the US for many years.

In his role at ACHUO-I, Grant is responsible for supporting residence life and housing professionals with training, events and materials. His team provides a rich pool of resources including online coursework, conferences, volunteer engagement, research and assessment projects. 

Grant really does know his stuff. Prior to ACUHO-I, he worked for 15 years in residence life programmes at Western Washington University, the University of British Columbia, Miami University and The Ohio State University. He is a Past President of the Great Lakes Association of College and University Housing Officers (GLACUHO), and has served in leadership roles within a number of other student housing bodies.

Grant kicked off the masterclass with an in-depth insight into residence life in the US. Sharing his experiences, Grant discussed the importance of career development. He is firmly of the belief that the development of talent within the sector is key to the development of a successful residence life programme. David McKown, Director of University Hospitality Seminars, said “The training of professional staff working within residence life is a key priority and a major benefit for members of CUBO. Developing talent will enhance the student experience within those institutions that are developing residence life.”

Grant was also first up on the second morning of the event with a session on Residence Life Event Expectations and Methods of Evaluation. One delegate told how this inspired a “lightbulb moment” strengthening her resolve to expand the residence life model at her institution and incorporate it into the wider university. Another delegate, Bec Woolley from the University of Wolverhampton, said “It was enlightening to hear what they have been doing for years in the States and how their approach has benefited so many of their students.”

The second keynote speaker, Dr Ela Nutu Hall, provided a session on the sensitive subject of sexual consent. She discussed current guidance, how to deal with the issues and support students in these difficult situations.

It was enlightening to hear what they have been doing for years in the States and how their approach has benefited so many of their students

On the second day, the final keynote session providing something a little different. The Dead Ernest Theatre Company facilitated a session on bullying within a university residence, using an actor to depict a real-life scenario. In the scenario, key points to intervene were missed and the situation quickly escalated. It gave delegates much food for thought. Siobhan O’Connell, Queen Margaret University, described how “it made us think about what should have been available, and if the scenario took place in our residences, what would have happened, are our systems robust enough to have dealt with the situation?” 

The two-day masterclass also included four different workshops: Interviewing and Selecting Residence Life Staff delivered by Eimear Karas, The University of Edinburgh, and Chris Stone-Seawalish from Michigan State University; Supporting Students with Mental Health Difficulties presented by Trudie Speed from The University of Sheffield; Managing a Conduct Review Meeting delivered by Cheryl Hutton from The University of Edinburgh. The fourth workshop, Social Media and the Student Experience, was presented by Campuslife. Delegates said this session was “great to keep up with current trends and find out what’s coming next.” 

The incredibly positive feedback from delegates showed the growing appetite for discussion and development of residence life programmes in the UK. Deirdre McIntyre, Bangor University, described the two-day masterclass as “one of the best CUBO events that I’ve attended. The speakers were passionate and knowledgeable in their delivery, while the delegates were like-minded and open to sharing experiences.” Both CUBO and ACUHO-I are delighted by the enthusiasm with which the event was received, and firmly committed to working together to develop residence life in the UK. 

The next masterclass will take place in March 2018. 



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