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300 student staff members attend conference at UWRF

February 11, 2010

UW-River Falls played host to 300 student staff members from River Falls and the Twin Cities area in an all-day conference last Saturday sponsored by the Associated Twin Cities College Housing Administrators (ATCCHA).

According to Kristie Feist, assistant director of Residence Life, the purpose of this conference was “To provide Residence Life staff the opportunity to develop leadership skills and to network with other Residence Life staff from nearby schools.”

The student staff members participated in a number of activities and workshops involving community building, self-awareness, diversity education, how to promote events and how to be a better Residence Life staff member.

Several students also presented their own workshops. Gina DeRosier, a senior majoring in elementary education here at UWRF, presented a workshop about diversity. Her main message was that there is more to diversity than just race and ethnicity; diversity also encompasses religion, gender and social class. According to DeRosier, the purpose of her workshop was to generate ideas for programs dealing with diversity and how to cover the issue of diversity in unique ways.

Kara Dennis, a sophomore and Chloe Mirzayi, a senior from Macalester College, teamed up to teach a workshop about sexual education. Their workshop titled “S.E.X.Y Training, Students Educating X’s and Y’s” is a program designed for freshman. This program informs students about the forms of birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and how to have safe sex. According to Mirzayi, this program was designed to enlighten and educate students who attended conservative high schools where they were only taught abstinence.

UWRF students Ellie Bares, Brandon Kesler and Rachel Tobias served on the planning committee for this event. According to Kesler, they worked with the professional Residence Life staff providing student input for the event and helped with the day-of activities. When asked what they wanted the participants of the conference to come away with, Tobias said, “We want them to get a sense of what River Falls is all about and to take what they learn here and implement it in their communities.”

Paul Shepard, the director of Student Life, was the conference’s keynote speaker. Shepard’s message revolved around the theme of the conference, developing yourself, your community and your world. He encouraged the participants to think about what they bring to their positions as student staff members, what their challenges are and what it was that made them want to be student staff members in the first place. Shepard also c h a l l e n g e d them to think about their role in their communities. He pointed out that everyone has the capacity to develop community; they just need to think more creatively about how to reach out and include everyone. Shepard wrapped up his speech by addressing that the world is changed by all the small little things the student staff members do. By being self-aware, creating communities and being engaged citizens, then that is how people can motivate change in the world.

The ATCCHA has been in existence since the 1970’s. This group was created by Brian Dusbiber, the director of Residence Life at St. Thomas and Colleen Hegernes, director of Residence Life at St. Catherine University, according to Patti Klein, the director of Campus Life at Hamline University. They formed this group to network and to be used as a resource for other Residence Life directors in the surrounding Twin Cities area. UWRF has been involved with ATCCHA for about six years, according to Klein.

According to the ATCCHA web site, ATCCHA provides professional development opportunities, support and encouragement, and creates networking opportunities for housing professionals.

The ATCCHA’s member schools include Augsburg College, Bethel University, Carleton College, Concordia University, College of St. Benedict, Gustavus Adolphus College, Hamline University, Macalester College, Saint Cloud State University, Saint John’s University, St. Catherine University, St. Olaf College, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, the University of St. Thomas, and of course, UWRF. In order to be considered a member, a school must pay a $60 membership fee and attend at least two meetings prior to any voting for elections or organizational initiatives, according to the ATCCHA Web site.

The conference proved to be an educational day, according to the student staff members. Shawna Fritz, a UWRF student, learned about new programs ideas and how to better manage time. Rachel Johnson, a student at Hamline University, learned to think more consciously about how to include individuals to create a stronger community. Sarah Theisen, a student at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities, learned about diversity and that different types of identity need to be addressed. Theisen also realized the main message that this conference was trying to get across—that her job as a resident assistant is more important than she thought.