All in One Room

Think back to your time at Central. Your brain probably goes straight to that 2 a.m. conversation in the hallway, a pingpong championship in the basement, an impromptu study session in the lounge. For many students, college life is res life. And just because it’s not happening in a classroom doesn’t mean students aren’t learning.

“I truly believe that you get as much out of college outside the classroom as you do in it,” says Drew Sikkink ’06, hall director.

Central is intentionally a residential community; 96 percent of students live on campus in one of six residence halls or a handful of townhouses. The goal of the residence requirement is to create a community of engaged students. National research shows that students who live on campus get better grades, interact more with faculty and are more likely to attend graduate or professional programs.

“They can focus on being students,” says Melissa Sharkey, director of residence life. “They’re not worried about that part-time job or making rent. They’re worried about going to class, joining this club, being in this play. It just changes your whole college perspective when you’re immersed in it.”

What residence life teaches:

Clothes don’t wash themselves.

The magic of a laundry chute is extraordinary. You throw down your clothes, and they reappear clean and nicely folded. But every first-year student must become their own laundry fairy—and grocery fairy, too. “In high school, you take for granted having your parents do everything for you,” says Grant Jansen ’12, a resident advisor (R.A.) in Pietenpol. “And now your fridge is absolutely empty at 2 a.m. when you want a snack.”

Golf and Tennis do mix.

Gennis—a combination of the two sports—is a popular game on campus, even sparking a few hall-wide tournaments last semester. Throughout the years, students have been quick to invent their own games when boredom sets in. Even the more common pastimes—ordering pizza, playing pingpong, making cookies, racing down the hall—are the backbone of good res-life experiences.

Friends are the best people to live with—and the worst.

Everyone’s heard the horror stories about living with friends— friendships broken, windows broken. “You don’t always expect what you get living with your friends,” says Molly Bauman, hall director for the townhouses. “But those are sometimes the best growing experiences too, learning how to adjust and compromise on the unexpected.”

This is not a slumber party.

In other words, there are going to be some stressful times. To negotiate them, students learn conflict resolution, such as telling a hallmate to turn down the music or pick up their stuff. Doing this in a respectful way that doesn’t poison the hall environment can be tricky. “This is not high school,” says Bauman. “You have to live with each other as adults. Sometimes that means having to confront your friends. But it’s a great growth opportunity because it translates into other areas of your life, too.”

Travel in hordes.

The core of residence life is an experience you’ll never have again: living with all your best friends. If you want to go somewhere, you just grab the nearest arms and propel them along, no matter the time or the temperature. It’s no more than a five-minute walk, anyway. “I like to see hordes of students going places together,” says Bauman.

Ice is slippery.

So you probably already knew that before you came to campus. But did you know there’s a specific way to fall to avoid hurting yourself? Students found that out last fall when an R.A. gave a program on winter safety—a much-needed lesson in Pella.

Helping others doesn’t just mean your roommate.

College is about broadening your perspective, and the res-life staff can be as inspirational as the faculty. Bauman started a clothing drive for a local charity (and added the spice of competition). She was astounded by how the students responded—cleaning out their closets and hauling in bags of clothes from home. In the end, they collected 1,100 usable items to donate.

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 What is your favorite residence life memory? Did you learn anything from it?

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