Residential Student Spirit, Leadership Capture Regional Awards
A 'Hunger Games' Banquet and Game Made For a Creative, Social Activity That Led to Award
Dec. 3, 2012
"Districts," like those depicted in the movie "The Hunger Games," were set up in the courtyard outside a residence hall.
When “The Hunger Games” opened last spring in theaters across the country, UT Dallas residential students who’d been devouring the best-selling novel were eager to see the movie.
“Students were reading it and gearing up for the new release. One of our students had the idea to see it together,” said Catherine Pickrel, assistant director of residential life.
Staff helped the students secure a local theater for a private screening before the midnight opening of the movie. Students took it a step further by organizing a “Hunger Games” banquet and game as a tie-in event. Student participants earned points by moving through “districts” in an obstacle course and then had their names pulled in a “reaping” or drawing at the end.
The students’ creativity garnered a recent regional award for program of the year from an organization that encourages leadership opportunities for residential students at colleges across the country.
UT Dallas students took home four of the five awards given out at the 2012 Southwest Affiliate of the National Association of College and University Residence Halls (SWACURH) Conference, held Nov. 1-4 at Oklahoma State University.
Their recognition is all the more rewarding since UT Dallas is a relative newcomer to residential life organizations, having only participated in such associations since 2005. UT Dallas students competed against older, more established programs in six states, including those at Oklahoma State University, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, University of Arkansas, the University of North Texas, and The University of Texas at Austin.
Students in “District 4” played “Can You Catch It?” They had to catch swimming goldfish through holes in the net.
“We’re still very new at this,” Pickrel said. “We’re very proud. Our residential students are incredibly focused, and they’re very passionate about programs and other students.”
The residential life program has expanded in recent years because students who were residence hall leaders as freshmen have continued with residential activities as sophomores, she added. “It’s really good to bridge that gap, to take that residence hall feel into the apartments,” Pickrel said.
Residential students generally start in the residence halls as freshmen, where priority is given to placing them. Students then move into apartments if they wish to continue living on campus.
At the regional meeting, UT Dallas also took home top honors for student Staff Member of the Year, Volunteer of the Year and Community of the Year.
“This was a true team effort, fueled by students and led by staff from both residence halls and apartments,” said Ryan White, director of residential life. “The students who traveled to this conference organized a great campaign to recognize some exceptional accomplishments from the past year.”
Resident students in “District 2” had two minutes to complete the Rockslide Boggle game, forming as many words as possible with the letters on the boxes.
Andrew Smith, a graduate student in constitutional law studies, received the Student Staff Member of the Year award. Smith has been a peer advisor for four years, two at the residence halls and two in the apartments on campus. He was the peer advisor for the Global Living Learning Community, which won Community of the Year, and also helped organize the Hunger Games events.
“He’s one of our best PAs,” Pickrel said. “His residents are very involved. He’s very successful in getting his students outside of their suites. He’s truly building a community that has a good depth and breadth to it.”
Haley Bilbray, a junior chemistry major, earned Volunteer of the Year for her community service through the Office of Student Volunteerism. Bilbray has helped with the Special Olympics 5K, alternative spring break projects, Student Ambassadors, chemistry student association, community garden, and math and science camp.
The Global Living Learning Community in Residence Hall North earned Community of the Year for its student involvement and camaraderie. The community took up three-fourths of a floor, and was organized by students who shared a global focus by participating in international student activities. Several of its students now serve on the UT Dallas executive board for the Residential Hall Association and as peer advisors.
Though that community has disbanded (Living Learning Communities are now organized by academic interests), many of the students are still very close from their experience living on campus together, said John Carrillo, a residential life coordinator.
“It seems as though there’s not only a demand for residence hall living, but also a level of satisfaction we provide for our students,” Carrillo said. “There’s a real fervor on campus among students for residential life.”
UT Dallas students plan to nominate their Hunger Games event for a national Program of the Year award in the summer.
The Residential Housing Association (RHA) is a student-led organization that is open to all residents of UT Dallas residence halls and apartments and focuses on large-scale programming and community building. National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH), a leadership association of resident students, is also involved in nominating students for these awards.
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