The Official Newsletter of UW-Madison’s Sellery Residence Hall
Three-time housefellow experiences residence hall culture changes By: Kelsey Ryan
Going into her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sarah Siverling found herself taking a leadership role for her rambunctious floormates in Sellery Hall, a 50-year-old university residence hall. After that year, she would find herself back in Sellery for another three years. Siverling scooped up the opportunity to become a Sellery Hall housefellow after her freshman year. As a housefellow, she took responsibility of some 60 residents, helped them transition into college life and provided them with resources to be successful. “I decided to be a housefellow because I thought I had already been doing the job,” Siverling said. “A lot of my freshman year I wished I had a good housefellow. So, I wanted [to provide] that positive experience for freshmen coming in.” Being that her time in Sellery lasted a whole four years, she was able to experience changes in culture amongst floor residents as a result of University Housing’s decision to change floors’ co-ed set up. The format was labeled a “social experiment” and was implemented for the first time during the 2011-2012 academic school year. Each floor in Sellery is divided in half by a set of elevators and bathrooms. Prior to the 2011-2012 school year, each “wing” was separated by gender. According to Siverling, this forced residents to make an effort to get to know people all across the floor. She said, due to the fact that most students are statistically heterosexual, being separated from the opposite gender drew them to make connections with people on the other “wing”. As a result, the residents formed one large community. When the University Housing staff decided to switch to a mixed co-ed set up
Students converse at the annual Sellery Backyard Party, an event held at the beginning of the year to initiate socialization. This is one of many events held in an effort to help new students form friendships. Photo courtesy by Jeff Miller, University Communications
– when female residents could be placed right next door to male residents – Siverling said she noticed a difference in the culture. “I would say the biggest contrast would be in how the floor formed the community,” Siverling said. “For the mixed co-ed floors, each wing seemed to form its own mini community.” As a result, the floor dynamics were much different than before the switch. Due to the change, she said the housing staff noticed a difference in conduct. “I would say if you look at the numbers…the misconduct in Sellery definitely decreased,” Siverling said. She described how a lot of times, the all-male wings would be vandalized rather quickly in contrast with the female wings. Upon the switch to co-ed mixed floors, Siverling said there was significantly less vandalism.
Despite her stints with vandalism and wild freshman antics, Siverling cherished her time spent in Sellery Hall as a housefellow. She said the professional housing staff in Sellery is the best by far among university residence halls. As a result, she felt Sellery and Witte, a similar residence hall, were the best two dorms to be placed in as a housefellow. “I think a lot of people going into being a housefellow don’t want to be in Sellery or Witte. It’s very intimidating,” Siverling said. “It was definitely an enjoyable and rewarding experience, but definitely challenging.” Since graduating in 2013, she has taken her talents to Boston, Mass. for a career opportunity. Despite the distance, Siverling said she still sometimes touches base with old residents and reminsces about crazy stories.