Editor’s note: This story is part of a series looking at some of the people and events in the news in 2014.
Kenai Peninsula College’s residence hall will begin its fourth semester of housing students on Monday. The college has received 52 housing contracts for the spring session.
Kenai Peninsula College Associate Director of Residence Life Tammie Willis compiles monthly data on resident demographics and student programs hosted at the hall, which is the college’s most comprehensive documentation of the emerging community.
“This information is what will ultimately justify opening a second residence hall one day,” Willis said.
Short term, it provides a snapshot of the population and what can be addressed to encourage an even stronger community, Willis said. During the fall semester, the rooms were filled to 60 percent capacity, a high rate for a transitional institution, she said.
Willis’ theory as to why the group of students occupying the hall have bonded into a cohesive, productive body so readily, is more of a systematic approach grounded in nearly two decades of work in residence life. Simply put, she knew her plan for community building would work.
During the fall quarter, the building hosted student-run programs almost every other evening, Willis said. Movie nights, genealogy presentations, a talent show, monthly potlucks and LGBT: An Alliance Group meetings are only a handful of the events that filled the common area on the hall’s first level, she said.
The long-term goal is for residents to be self-sufficient and to initiate and organize the bulk of the programs, Willis said. This results in a more engaged and active group, she said.
When students are invested in their community, they are more likely to self-police, Willis said. There have been very few conflicts or incidents of misconduct in the residence hall this year, she said.
In September, Residence Life Coordinator and longtime friend and coworker Leslie Byrd nominated Willis for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Prior to being doused with nearly one dozen plastic trashcans filled to the brim with ice water, paid for by friends and co-workers, Willis summarized her hopes for the staff and students working and living in the hall.
“I am accepting this challenge, but I am accepting this challenge with a caveat,” Willis said. “Instead, I am issuing a challenge for other people to participate in the ice bucket challenge, what I am doing is I am challenging Ashley Bell, Joshua Rutten, Kristen McBride, Sean McBride, Scott Sellers, and all the students here at the residence life program to be the change. Find an issue that is important to your community, a cause that is important to your community, whether it is the (Kenai Peninsula) food bank, The LeeShore Center, think outside the box, be creative and be the change.”
With only 42 percent of the population from the Kenai Peninsula, programs have more flexibility, and should cover a wider variety of subjects to address the diversity of the population, Willis said. Last semester members of the Kenaitze Tribal Association came to speak with Native students about career opportunities, and what they should take advantage of while at KPC.
Willis presents her monthly reports at the College Council meetings. She summarizes the information by maintaining a long running strategic plan that addresses positive or negative growth in the hall.
“I can’t say if it is a trend or a fluke at this point, or what it will look like in the future,” Willis said. “But, at this point, the numbers are very good.”
Reach Kelly Sullivan at email@example.com.