Creating a first-year community at Lister

(Edmonton) Plans are unfolding now to turn the three towers of “classic Lister” into a first-year residence in September 2013. The towers are Kelsey, Henday and Mackenzie halls. Lister’s Mary Schäffer Hall will remain a residence for primarily second- and third-year students.

The first steps in making this transition are to restructure the student-staff positions to be consistent with those in all other University of Alberta residences and implement a change to the rules relating to alcohol consumption in all residences on the Edmonton campuses.

The staffing changes will take effect with this incoming academic year. The alcohol rule change takes effect immediately and prohibits the use of alcohol without a permit in areas such as lounges and hallways in residences on the Edmonton campuses. Alcohol consumption by residents of legal drinking age may still take place within private spaces, which include bedrooms and the living room in a suite setting such as HUB.

The staffing change relates to the role of floor co-ordinators and floor vice-presidents in Lister Hall, in which students were elected to the position, but employed by the university and then jointly reported to Residence Services and the Lister Hall Students’ Association (LHSA). These positions are being eliminated and replaced with residence assistant and senior residence assistant roles as exist in other U of A residences. This eliminates a potential conflict of interest between the advocacy role played by LHSA and the health, safety and discipline role that Residence Services staff must fill. It further frees both the LHSA reps and the RAs to fully concentrate on their respective advocacy and safety duties.

“We want to enhance several aspects of the experience for our students living in classic Lister, and creating a shared experience for first-year students is one way to do that,” said Frank Robinson, dean of students. “There are some excellent traditions upon which to build in Lister, including the dodgeball league that has a strong record of community-building and philanthropy. There’s a whole suite of steps that will roll out over a two-year period, including creating a community resource team and first-year residence program.”

The staffing and rule changes are being implemented immediately to address health and safety concerns that became apparent as plans developed during the summer for the first-year transition.

The following changes will take place over a two-year period:

  • Staff changes: University student-staff will be hired by and report to Residence Services.
  • Henday, Kelsey and Mackenzie Halls will become known jointly as the Lister First-Year Residence, creating a residence space with programming specifically designed for incoming first-year and transfer students.
  • A Community Resource Team will be established, providing student services and resources appropriate and relevant to the first-year population. Beginning this September, a community liaison officer from University Protective Services will be on site full-time Monday to Friday. A similar position is in place at HUB Mall. The team will also include a social worker and the existing faculty-in-residence.
  • A first-year residence program will be implemented in full, engaging students in extracurricular academic or engagement activities to complement and enhance their university experience. Examples include expanding the faculty-in-residence program and establishing a Residence Advisory Council.
  • Specialty living areas will be significantly expanded, recognizing the interplay between the common living spaces in Lister and residents’ ability to engage in academic activities. Examples of these include academic cohorts, dry floors and quiet floors, and those for interest groups such as students interested in sustainability issues.

“I am thrilled with the plans that are developing for a first-year experience,” said President Indira Samarasekera. “The staffing and rules changes taking effect this year will foster a living-learning environment that sets our students up for personal and academic success. There is clear demand from students and their parents for just such an environment. The support and programming that will be part of the first-year experience are an example of the types of initiatives outlined in the Comprehensive Institutional Plan and Dare to Deliver academic plan designed to enhance our student experience, increase leadership opportunities and foster the success of our students.”

“Student-staff in residence play a critical role in the personal and academic success of our students,” said Robinson. “These roles, which are not always easy, are also great opportunities for leadership development for our upperclass students. To recognize the importance of these roles, the university is establishing a leadership program and a new award specifically for students in leadership roles in all of our residences. Current students are working with us to define the criteria.”

For more details on the Lister Centre changes, go to the Q&A.