February 6, 2013

UNO Faculty, Staff and Administrators Go “Into the Halls”

Into the Halls at UNODave Meredith, Director of Admissions, meets with students at the residence halls.

The University of New Orleans ratcheted up its student outreach, customer service and Southern hospitality in January with a new initiative that led faculty, staff and administrators into UNO residence halls in an effort to connect with students.

Into the Halls is a new initiative sponsored by UNO’s Office of Enrollment Services (Admissions, Financial Aid, First Year Experience and Orientation), Office of Housing and Office of Student Involvement and Leadership. The door-knocking campaign is designed to bring faculty, staff and administrators into residence halls to connect with students and solicit feedback while building new relationships with students and arming them with needed resources.

“This is an opportunity for faculty and staff to connect with students outside of the classroom and encourage students to make sure they are aware and utilizing on campus resources,” said Christy Heaton, associate director of orientation and first-year success. First Year Experience, which aims to help incoming freshmen and transfer students make a better transition to the University of New Orleans and put them on pathways to academic and personal success.

More than 30 University faculty, staff and administrators roamed UNO’s Pontchartrain Hall for two hours on Jan. 30, armed with questionnaires, information about campus resources and answers to expected questions.  Together with a current UNO student they walked the halls of Pontchartrain Hall, the main residence hall on campus, and visited with students. They introduced themselves and presented the Into the Halls program as “an opportunity for students to see their faculty and staff outside of the classroom to ask questions and provide feedback.”

The visits started simply with get-acquainted questions such as “How is your semester starting off? Do you have any questions for me? Do you have any feedback that you would like to provide to the university?” said Heaton. Topics highlighted for discussion included: housing, cafeteria services, financial aid services, campus involvement opportunities and UNO technology and the UNO computer center. Following the tour, students, staff, faculty and administrators gathered in the Pontchartrain North first floor lobby for refreshments.

“This should be a positive experience, where students’ voices are heard.  This is an initiative to validate students’ feelings and foster a student-centered environment,” Dale O'Neill, the University's coordinator of  leadership and service programs, said in a guide for faculty, staff and administrators. “If students provide negative feedback, please do not pass judgment or join in. Provide positive suggestions for solutions/improvements to their concerns.”

Participants served as ambassadors for UNO, Heaton said. They also gathered critical feedback to be used for continuous improvement at the University and let students living on campus know that they have a voice and places to go when they need resources.