Dedicated Residence Life Staff Create a Home Away from Home for Students
At Yeshiva University, campus life is about building a home together—in more ways than one.
Each August, resident advisers (RAs) on both campuses undergo rigorous training to get ready for new students’ arrival. That means learning how to handle everything from medical emergencies to party planning and meeting with a wide range of University officials to brainstorm the best ways to help newcomers find their way and place at YU.
But this summer, the Wilf Campus residence life staff also honed their skills by sawing and sandblasting as they helped build a house with Westchester County’s Habitat for Humanity.
“We wanted to drive home the idea that you never do anything alone here,” said Sean Hirschhorn, Wilf’s assistant director of university housing and residence life. “There’s always someone to help you, whether you need to put together a planter box or choose a course for your major.”
The group of 20 students worked together with homeowners and other Habitat volunteers to clear debris from the site, create planters for the houses’ front yards, and sand and paint windows—tasks that Eli Shavalian ’14YC felt meshed perfectly with his responsibilities as an RA in the Rubin Residence Hall.
“Being an RA is all about getting out into the community and being there for people, whether you know them or not,” he said. “My first year here I was a true freshman coming from public school, with no Judaic studies background. My RA made me feel like I belonged here and was a part of something bigger, checking in with me every week to talk about my classes or events I had gone to and making sure I knew someone was genuinely looking out for me.” Shavalian added: “Now I want to do that for others.”
Being cared for and inspired by a well-trained and unified team of senior students can form a crucial safety net for newcomers adjusting to the fast pace of college life, as well as returning students grappling with other challenges. But according to Shana Glasser, associate director of university housing and student life on the Israel Henry Beren Campus, providing a secure and protected environment is just a piece of the puzzle.
“Programs like Challah Baking, Midnight Madness, Karaoke Movie Night and Craft Nights bring students together,” she said. “We’re dedicated to creating and maintaining a living environment that supports not only the students’ academic development but their personal and social growth as well. Our goal is to help students reach their potential through positive role modeling, creative programming and the availability of campus resources.”
At the Beren Campus, student housing also provides the unique atmosphere of home in the center of one of the world’s greatest and busiest cities. “Living on campus in the heart of New York City is a formative experience at Stern,” said Talia Lautman ’13S. “It gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the city and, at the same time, to develop more as a person by learning from others and participating in events on campus.”
“Residential life is an integral part of the total collegiate educational experience,” said Jonathan Mantell, director of university housing and residence life on the Wilf Campus. “More than simply a place to sleep, residence hall living creates a community of peers in which to explore new ideas and share in campus experiences.”