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What A President Learned Living With First-Year Residents. BETTY L. SIEGEL, Ph.D. President, Kennesaw State University MICHAEL L. SANSEVIRO Director of Residence Life. “I am NOT Charlotte Simmons”. Is Tom Wolfe’s 2004 portrait of today’s college students accurate?

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What a president learned living with first year residents

What A President Learned Living With First-Year Residents

BETTY L. SIEGEL, Ph.D.President, Kennesaw State University


Director of Residence Life

I am not charlotte simmons
“I am NOT Charlotte Simmons”

  • Is Tom Wolfe’s 2004 portrait of today’s college students accurate?

  • Conceived with the opening of a new FYE Living-Learning Community in Fall 2004, President Siegel sought to engage students in courageous conversations on “their own turf.”

  • The “President’s Overnights” were born!

About kennesaw state university
About Kennesaw State University

  • Public Suburban Institution, northwest of Atlanta

  • 3rd largest university in Georgia

  • 18,000+ students and growing

  • 2163 residential students

  • Only 40 years old, with only 2 presidents

  • Started as small 2 year college, now growing toward research university

  • Completely commuter until Fall 2002

  • Majority of students from Cobb county

  • Shifting from non-traditional to traditional age

  • Recently moved to NCAA Division I

Nuts bolts
Nuts & Bolts

  • One unit was taken off-line to be used as the “President’s Suite” and model apartment.

  • Schedule for the Overnights

    6:00 p.m. Dinner with some RAs in the apartment

    8:00 p.m. Student Social & Discussion in the activity center

    10:00 p.m. Hot Cocoa & Popcorn in the apartment

    11:00 p.m. Evening News & Discussion of World Events

    12:00 a.m. Lights Out (or pick-up soccer in the courtyard!)

    7:00 a.m. Breakfast at the Waffle House (and Dr. Siegel pays!)

  • During numerous overnights the President visited every residential community and met with hundreds of students representing the breadth and depth of student diversity on campus.

Living learning communities
Living-Learning Communities

Three On-Campus Residential Communities (2163 beds)

  • KSU Place (renovated for campus housing Fall 2002)

    582 beds; 4 bedroom/2bath apts

    mostly upperclass - houses athletes, non-traditional, International

  • University Place (opened Fall 2002)

    700 beds; 2 bed/bath & 4 bed/bath “garden” apts

    mostly traditional age upperclass students

  • University Village complex (opened Fall 2004)

    881 beds; 2, 3, 4 bed/bath apts, interior corridors, 7 classrooms, faculty offices, retail, services

    mostly traditional age first-year students, some sophomores & honors

Who are our residents


Oldest = 57; Youngest = 15

“Non-Traditional” (24+) = 5%

Under 18 = 4%

“Legal” (21+) = 20%

Under 21 = 80%

Millennials = 94%


65% Female

35% Male


68% New to On-Campus Housing

46% Traditional First-Year Students

Who Are Our Residents?

Millennial generation
Millennial Generation

  • Born from 1982-2002

  • 80 million (the largest generation)

  • Technologically savvy & proficient

  • Extremely close with parents (“Helicopter Parents”)

  • Raised sheltered and protected

  • Ambitious but with unrealistic expectations

  • Exposed to vast array of information but less in-depth

  • Different patterns of social connection

  • Increasingly high levels of stress and anxiety

  • More “medicated” than any other generation

What have we learned
What Have We Learned?

  • Students love KSU

  • They are learning outside of the classroom (maybe even more than inside the classroom)

  • They work… a lot (25-30+ hours per week average)

  • They don’t cook (even with really nice kitchens)

  • They seek school spirit, a sense of culture and traditions

  • They seek meaningful connections (frequently online)

  • Students feel KSU is diverse (but not always engaging diversity)

  • They fear financial aid (as do their parents)

  • Teachers make the difference

  • Everyone has a George Foreman Grill…and now so does Dr. Siegel!

What have we learned1
What Have We Learned?

What Students Say About Living On-Campus…

  • Higher grades

  • Higher level of involvement on campus

  • Greater sense of independence

  • More patience & ability to learn to get along with others

  • Appreciation of differences

  • Acquiring life skills

  • Like apartments with private bathrooms

  • Interaction with RAs as Teachers and Mentors

The wish list
The Wish List

  • The ability to meet and eat…cafeterias, meal plans

  • Green space and the ability to use it

  • Useable common space, places to hang out

  • Faculty interaction at night

    • The student definition of “night” vs. our definition

The 13 th grade
The 13th Grade

  • The Resident Commuter

    “My social network is off campus because most of my

    friends don’t go to school here but live in the area.”

  • Local residents are still connected

    • Same friends, church, significance others, hangouts, jobs, family oriented

  • Their room is a convenient place for their stuff but not always where they are.

  • The Four-Day College Week

    • A “suitcase campus” (Monday am – Thursday afternoon)

Size doesn t matter their life inside the classroom
Size Doesn’t MatterTheir Life Inside the Classroom

  • Feelings about General Education Classes

    • “General education courses are frustrating! It is frustrating to do something that you already just did in high school. We came here because we want to study something specific and it takes you two years to get to it!” 

    • “…they give an understanding of how everything all connects. You can learn something in math class and can’t figure out how it works, and then you see it later on in economics and you are like “wow! There it is…math again!”

  • Class size – small vs. large

    • What makes the difference? THE FACULTY!

  • Technology should be a supplement not a substitution

I don t like when my professors
“I Don’t Like When My Professors…”

  • Go way too fast and cover too much material at once!

  • Read directly from the textbook and call it a lecture.

  • Read from their Power Point.

  • Do not keep you up to date on your progress.

  • Don’t follow the syllabus! I can’t read or plan ahead!

  • Don’t contact you when class is cancelled.

    “Some faculty don’t even show up for class, are constantly late, or continually go back and forth to their office because they forgot something.”

But i love when my professors
“But I Love When My Professors…”

  • Are available outside of class time.

  • Take an interest in me – my goals and dreams.

  • Support activities and get involved.

  • Have school spirit.

  • Allow announcements and advertising in class.

  • Let me get to know them as a person.

  • Share why they teach and how they became interest in their subject area.

New initiatives
New Initiatives

  • Growing out of the feedback from the President’s Overnights are the following student-centered initiatives:

    - “Fabulous Friday EdVentures”

    - Staff & Administrator Workshop Series

    - Opening of School Faculty Presentation

    - Shift in Master Plan for Future Housing

  • Expansion of “TLC” Total Living Concept

  • OWLS Programming Model – learning outcomes driven

Ksu s coolest president
“KSU’s ‘coolest’ president”

  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran an article on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 highlighting this unique approach to serving students:

    “KSU’s ‘coolest’ presidents: Students get Siegel’s ear at sleepovers”

Lesson summary
Lesson Summary

  • Students (and parents) talk and they are watching.

  • Our campus is their HOME.

  • When they talk about “them” they mean US.

  • Is it easier for us or best for them?

  • They want to connect with us.

  • They learn as much outside as inside the classroom.