The Division of Student Affairs supports every aspect of student life through its services, programs and facilities. Integral to the programs and services that develop the "whole" student, these facilities provide the connections students need for academic, personal and social support. Additionally, student-life facilities provide positive and memorable campus experiences.
The University of Michigan was at the forefront nationally in developing student-focused facilities. For example, collegiate recreational sports was founded at U-M in 1913, and the nation's first college intramural sports building was constructed here in 1928. The Association of College Unions International was founded by the Michigan Union and six other peers in 1914, and the Michigan Union is the third oldest student union in the nation. And residential living-learning program, now seen across the nation, began as educational programs at U-M.
Today, the Division of Student Affairs is responsible for approximately 17% of the Ann Arbor campus, with facilities that include, for example, University Housing, University Unions and Recreational Sports. Stewardship of these (and other) facilities is important for current and future generations of Wolverines.
In 2004, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman launched the Residential Life Initiatives (RLI), a planned capital program to expand and improve the experience for students living on campus, and to strengthen the connection between living and learning. Since that time, nearly all of the residence halls have been equipped with new fire detection, alarm and suppression systems. Several residence halls have been renovated to meet contemporary student living standards – Mosher Jordan, Stockwell, Couzens, and Alice Lloyd (reopening fall 2012). Baits II will undergo improvements this summer, and East Quadrangle will close at the end of this semester for a year-long rejuvenation. Additionally, new construction in the RLI program has created the Hill Dining Center and the North Quadrangle Residential and Academic Complex.
Student housing is only part of the picture. Over the past several years the Division of Student Affairs has made it a priority to plan for necessary facility improvements, focused on improving opportunities for learning, interacting, and developing community. With numerous residence hall plans completed or underway, current attention is focused upon improving the student experience in Recreational Sports and University Unions facilities.
"Our University was the founder of the recreation and student union movements in the whole United States," says Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Loren J. Rullman. "That also means these facilities are old, and no longer meeting current student needs. It's time we reinvest in the student experience to reflect the vision of those who came before us. Simply put, we need facilities worthy of the Michigan experience."
The University Unions have provided social, meeting, study, entertainment and eating places for students and student organizations for decades. Comprising the Michigan Union, Michigan League and Pierpont Commons on north campus, the unions are central gathering spots for all students, and house many of the support services and programs offered by Student Affairs units. Over 20,000 people each day utilize these three important facilities.
Recreational Sports oversees three campus recreation buildings, including the iconic Intramural Sports Building, as well as several sports fields, tracks and courts, as well as programs like Club Sports, Intramural Sports, the Challenge Program and Outdoor Adventures. In the past year, Recreational Sports has replaced fitness equipment, upgraded locker rooms, and refurbished Elbel Field – a popular venue for club and intramural sports, and the practice field for the University of Michigan Marching Band. Today, over 18,000 students participate annually in Intramural Sports and 2,000 in Club Sports, and more than 6,000 people utilize the three major campus recreational buildings daily.
In 2008, Student Affairs began the process of studying the facility conditions of and student experiences in the Union, League and Pierpont Commons. This process included dozens of focus groups, interviews, and surveys with students, faculty and staff. That work culminated about the time Recreational Sports supervision was transitioned from Intercollegiate Athletics to the Division of Student Affairs in 2009.
"We decided to pause with the University Unions work so we could study Recreational Sports and Unions facilities together. Our hope was this would allow us to think holistically about the overall student experience with both organizations," Rullman notes. "Since last spring, when the Recreational Sports study was completed, we met with student leaders from Central Student Government, Michigan Union Board of Representatives, and the Advisory Committee to the Department of Recreational Sports and talked about how to coordinate additional study for both organizations." Since then, a student coalition called Building A Better Michigan has formed and has been advising the Division on facilities priorities; also, an alumni group of former student leaders has formed to provide input.
Additional study will take time, but will lead to prioritization of needs, determination of possible funding sources, and a timetable for improvements over the next decade. Like the planned capital program for University Housing, the stewardship of the University Unions and Recreational Sports facilities play a vital role in the future experience of U-M students.
"We have a university president and vice president for Student Affairs who care deeply about students, we have exceptional student leadership working on the issue, we have valid data about facility issues, and we have a national history and tradition of student experience and student-focused facilities," says Rullman. "We also know that a robust and engaging campus life is absolutely fundamental to a well-rounded education. We believe students deserve the very best facilities for their out-of-class life: to recreate, socialize, dine, and lead."
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