In an effort to reconnect with the student population at CSU, Blanche Hughes, vice president of Student Affairs, spent Wednesday night with a student in a dorm room in Edwards Hall.
“I got the idea from a magazine article I read about the vice president of Student Affairs at Indiana University,” Hughes said. “He used to spend one night a year, until he retired, in the dorm rooms getting to know some of the students.”
It wasn’t just any old dorm night though, as Michael Katz, the Residence Life coordinator for Edwards, organized special activities for the event, including dinner for Hughes in the cafeteria, a couple of movies on a large projector in the basement, and a slumber party complete with popcorn and snow cones for anyone who wanted to join.
“Since I started here at CSU, I’ve worked on a number of projects with Blanche, and she was always talking about how she wanted to really create a connection with the students here, so we came up with this idea and started planning a couple months ago,” Katz said.
Hughes, who has spent 20 years as a CSU faculty member, said a close relationship with students is crucial for her job as vice president of Student Affairs.
“For people like me who are in student affairs, it’s vitally important to have a good idea of what student life is like,” Hughes said. “I don’t want the students to look at administrators as untouchable.
“When I was younger I worked as a resident advisor and residence director, and I honestly think there’s nothing cooler than the dorms. Being here really gets me in touch with my roots.”
Agricultural science major Leah Thomas, who Hughes spent the night with, was a little nervous about the idea at first, but finally accepted the proposal.
“I live in a single and my (resident assistant) came to me and asked me if I’d be interested and I said yes,” Thomas said.
The next day, Hughes extolled the receptiveness of the students and the hard work put in by her staff.
“It was just great. A really fun, wonderful experience,” she said. “It’s been a long time for me since I lived in a dorm, and just watching my staff and how they interact with the students really renewed my appreciation for their effort to try and build a community in the residence halls.”
Hughes said the best part of the evening was just hanging out and talking with Thomas and her friends in their room, away from everyone else.
“After the first movie I went upstairs, and they were all just hanging out in the room, so I sat down and we ended up talking for about an hour and a half,” Hughes said. “That was the most important thing, to really connect with those students on a personal level.”
Hughes said if students are receptive to the idea, it might become an annual event.
“If it was alright with the students and staff, then I’d love to do it even more than once a year. It was so much fun, I’d even like to bring my son with me next time,” she said.
Staff writer Calvin Setar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.