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November/December 2016



Board of Directors PRESIDENT


Daryl Nauman

Sara Wills

York University

Carleton University



Amanda Ziegler

Jessica Nayda

Brock University

University of Guelph



Julie West
 University of Guelph

Christopher Lengyell University of Toronto Mississauga



Brian Cunha

University of Waterloo

University of Toronto

Mary Stefanidis



Tammy Douglas

Nipissing University

York University

Genevieve de Bryun



Hilary Jandricic


Carleton University

Carol Ford


It is always a pleasure to come together with friends and colleagues from colleges and universities who work in student housing. The Fall Business Meeting (FBM) hosted by Humber College earlier this month provided us with such an opportunity. Attendees participated in sessions that expanded our knowledge on topics, such as gender inclusion, accessibility, LLCs, the RTA, and staff engagement. Members learned more about The Value of Living & Learning in Residence project and for those involved in facilities (or who have a curiosity of) went on a building tour. Our strategic plan includes a focus on education, which the FBM addresses well; furthermore, it looks at member engagement and the day included no shortage of engagement opportunities including the CHO meeting, the Senior level member meeting and the ENOP networking opportunity, all followed

by a dinner social. Of course, there was time dedicated to the running of our association and OACUHO Board updates. Again, I thank Humber College for hosting a successful event and encourage others to consider hosting future conferences. With the academic term winding down, a much deserved holiday break is near both for our students and us. I hope over the coming weeks you have an opportunity to celebrate the successes of 2016 both personal and professional and engage in some holiday cheer with your colleagues. Looking ahead to 2017, I encourage you to think of about your involved in OACUHO. You can write for The Pulse, serve on a committee, submit a conference proposal, run for a position on the Board, and so much more, but for now enjoy the festive season and the remainder of the year as it comes to a close.



in house

 with Research Writer Aman Litt

Supporting and Creating Resiliency within our Students through Strategic Building Creation


fter listening to a riveting webinar, presented by Dr. Gregory Eells, from Cornell University this month, I started to think about student resiliency. Resiliency is “the power or ability to return to the original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched,” the second definition identifies it as the “ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy” (“resiliency”, n.d.). preparatory article, basically what to read and research prior to the next related article.



What do we do to help students get back to their best state after a hardship? All of our institutions provide numerous areas for support: peer support, clinical counselling, social workers, and faculty specific advisors. Eells discusses how happiness is ten percent contingent on one’s external environment and ninety percent on an individual’s processing skills (Eells, 2016). This demonstrates why some students struggle after their first setback or setbacks in the post secondary environment. Regardless of our input, if we do not provide these students with the tools to help themselves, the student will inevitably continue to struggle.


 One concept that Eells discussed was why people attend university in the first place. He discussed how one should expect be challenged and face setbacks because university is meant to be just that--a challenge (Eells, 2016). It is meant to help you create resiliency strategies for future setbacks. Personally, in my day to day, it’s easy for me to fall into the thought process of how to make things easier for our students, but I rarely think about the pro’s of hardship. I believe in Eell’s concept of showing challenges as opportunities, but the question remains, where is the line? (Eells, 2016) How do we know when to push or challenge our students, and how do we know when it’s too much? This is something I spoke with colleagues about after the webinar and that I am continuing to research and better understand.

By creating traditional residences which encourage social interaction, we are able to better support our first-year students, and help them work with their peers in order to build personal resilience.This particular strategy will foster the mentality that their failures and setbacks are common among their peers, not only in residence, but also in the university setting overall. By removing the fallacies that failure is rare, and opening the lines of communication about how common it actually is, we are creating an environment where students can get back to a healthy, coping state at a faster rate than they could independently.

Eell went on to present how social connections lead to releases of oxytocin which helps decrease stress (Eells, 2016). By engaging in intentional programming, providing group study spaces, and having supportive staff readily available, we are encouraging and providing resources for social connection, which if students take advantage of, will help with their ability to cope with the stressors of university life. 

Eells expanded on how biological isolation is toxic to the human nervous system (Eells, 2016). To his point, there have been numerous studies done on rhesus monkeys and mice to investigate the effects of loneliness and links to social anxiety, health issues, and shortened lifespans. 

There are many things our Residences allow to mitigate isolation in the student population. For example, at the University of Alberta, we are currently constructing a traditional residence building. The residence includes gender neutral communal washrooms, a large scale communal kitchen, and ample socialization and study spaces for our students. The very structure of the building pushes students out of their room and into shared spaces because there is a limit to accessibility, and therefore isolation, in one’s dorm room. 

 These social connections create a worthiness within an individual. We all have the inherent need to feel a sense of belonging, whether it be from our peers, family, or friends. During university, the peer connection is vital because it is your peers who help you through various struggles, via empathy. Another important element of social connection, is that it provides room for laughter. Eell discusses how oftentimes in life we use laughter to get through a difficult situation (Eells, 2016). From my own experience, I recall sending out a funny meme about stress or work/life balance to a friend to get a laugh and as an opening to discuss what’s been bothering me. It is not the only solution, but is useful to get through a tough day or difficult circumstance.




 Another valuable tool Eell discussed was the use of social learning projects (Eells, 2016). This topic is one that I am personally invested with. Service learning projects work to help foster grit and resiliency, because the act of helping others is therapeutic, and the value of service learning should not be undermined (Eell, 2016). Currently on our campus, we have noticed a decline in students volunteering for service learning projects, but the discussion Eell presented is something that I think we might make part of the conversation we have with students, regarding these opportunities. By demonstrating to our students the intrinsic value of service-learning and how it can assist with mental health, as opposed to encouraging participation for volunteer hours or program requirements, we can perhaps increase engagement with these programs. 
 Another concept related to this topic, which I intend to explore in a future article is the problems associated with perfectionism. Perfectionism is an additional source of stress because it is a rigid, “black-and-white” way of looking at the world. It is the opposite of cognitive flexibility (Eell, 2016). It is a myth 

 and is on opposition of our goal. Perfectionists are always disappointed because life will never be perfect. It is something that we need to encourage our students to give up. 
 Though there are not a lot of answers in this article, I hope I have brought up some vital questions or opened up some conversations about grit and resiliency. There are many things we can do to foster these traits in our student, whether it be through physical layout of our residences or intentional programming, but we have ensure that we are providing students with the tools to become self sufficient, high-functioning achievers in their educational careers. References
 Eells, G.T. (Panelist). (2016, Nov 17). Develop Resilient Students: Foster Grit, Life Skills and Stress Management [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from 3056.aspx

resiliency. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved Nov 15, 2016 from

Membership Engagement Committee Update The Membership Engagement Committee wrapped up its #OACUHOLIDAY social media campaign on November 1st. We loved seeing all of your creative Halloween costumes and departmental festivities, they really helped us get into the holiday spirit. Congratulations to Lindsay Tayler from Wilfrid Laurier University and the Residence Life Team at Georgian College on winning the contest and thank you to everyone who shared their photos on Instagram and Twitter! We hope that everyone who signed up for the Secret Snowflake program is getting excited in anticipation of your gifts arriving. If you missed out on this event, don’t worry! The Membership Engagement Committee has many more opportunities coming your way in January. Cheers!



Welcome Home!
 ...again! Written by Sonja Smiljanic, Residence Life Coordinator at Innis College at the University of Toronto in collaboration with Jordan Macquarrie, Assistant Dean of Operations and Admissions at Innis College

We at Innis College at the University of Toronto often get asked about our re-application process for students who want to return to residence as upper years. Why? People are usually blown away when they hear that about 25% of our 326-bed operation is comprised of upper year students – all of whom are committed to being involved and giving back to the residence community. You read that correctly…a whole twenty five per cent. When we both started working at Innis College during the past year and a half we were really pleasantly surprised by these stats and eager to see the impact that the upper years had in residence. At Innis we make community and accountability the focus of our operation. We encourage leadership, engagement, involvement, and growth in our suite-style residence by doing our best to instill a sense of service to the community. To do this we rely heavily on our upper years to not only be present in the residence but to be leaders and role models every day.

That’s why so much time and care goes into our re-application process. The extensive process has many layers and steps and it ensures that our community is led by strong upper years – some of which fill Don and Residence Council roles, but most of whom do not.
 The first step is a written application which students must fill out by the end of March. The written application asks students to outline their suitemate preferences (they are only permitted to live with one other upper year student, and then the rest of the 4 or 5 person suites are filled with first years to allow for the most mentorship opportunities), and to nominate 5 people from their floor and 5 people from the residence as a whole who they think would make positive upper year leaders. They are also asked to outline their commitment to Student Life and getting involved with our office’s leadership opportunities, and also requires them to write 3 short essays to reflect on leadership, involvement, and role modelling. Students are given about a month to complete and submit the paper application.





 The second step is the points system. Throughout the year student attendance to major programs in residence and at the College is tracked via StarRez – as is their attendance to mandatory monthly floor meetings. Different point values of 1-3 are assigned to them depending on whether they attended, assisted with, or fully planned a program during the year. Points are subtracted if they have any Incident Reports or are documented for actions that negatively impacted the community. Along with the participation point system every Don is sent a list of the students on their floor and they are required to add any additional comments on that student’s involvement in the floor community, flag for any concerns, and assign them a point value of 1-3 based on their overall recommendation on whether a student should be invited back to residence (1 being “do not recommend” and 3 being “strongly recommend”). Students also receive points from the nominations section of the application and receive 1 point for every nomination they get from their peers. All of these point values are consolidated and every student who has

applied is given a total point value. Students are then ranked from highest to lowest point value by our work-study student who completes all of the backend administrative work for the points system.


The third step is bringing together the Dons, the Residence Life Coordinator, and the Assistant Dean of Student Life to review every student individually in a selection meeting. Decisions are made based on participation and points, and the Dons are there to provide peer-based feedback. Exceptions are made for students who perhaps didn’t get involved in their first year, but who were still positive community members in other ways, or who commit to being involved as an upper year. Exceptions are also made for students who didn’t live on campus in first year, and those who leave for Professional Experience Years. We really strive to invite back a mix of students and not to disadvantage our more introverted students who demonstrate leadership in their own way or those who missed out on a first year residence experience.

Looking ahead, we will work to make our process more inviting and open to students, and not to potentially scare off those who know they didn’t get involved or those who don’t have residence experience. The possibility of offering an alternative essay question for students who feel they have not been involved enough to reflect on their year, the reasons they did not engage with the community as much as they would have liked, and to plan ahead as to how they would get involved and encourage involvement the following year is one way we’re looking to make the application process more accessible. Additionally, we will look to add questions and options on the application to make it easier for those students without residence experience to apply. Of course we recognize other gaps and pitfalls to the process such as the impact of bias, access in general, and space – these are things we continue to work on addressing through a consultative process with students.

While the upper year re-application process seemed daunting to us both when we first went through the re-admission cycle as staff members, we have truly seen the benefits of such a rigorous process. Our upper years not only engage themselves but promote participation and involvement to first year students, thus facilitating a cycle of engagement. The general feedback we receive from students is that they enjoy their experience as upper years and the opportunity to be a mentor in the residence community without taking on the commitment of being a Residence Don. The Don Team too enjoys being consulted and involved in the decision making process. Overall the process and subsequent level of mentorship and leadership yield positive results; Innis is a tight-knit community that is in many ways self-sufficient, accountable, and highly motivated. It is recognized on campus for being a highly engaged College and its residence is no different. We have found that our re-

admission process for upper years wishing to return to residence supports the high standards of participation and engagement.

Here are some additional statistics which may be interesting to you… Total Number of Students


International Students



Male Students



Female Studenta



Residence Dons



Residence Council Members



Front Desk Student Staff



We hope you’ve found learning about our reapplication process interesting! Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions about our residence operations or readmission process for upper years, we’re happy to chat further!

Sonja Smiljanic | Residence Life Coordinator Innis College | University of Toronto

Jordan Macquarrie | Assistant Dean, Operations and Admissions | Innis College | University of Toronto



Busy, but not Productive?


aking some of my recently acquired knowledge from the book I just finished, this review is going to be much shorter. Why? The reason is the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown focuses on determining what is essential in our life and so it was important that I determine the essential elements of the book to share with you. I found this book to be a must read – dare I say essential? – For any person looking to create some clarity and focus in their life. The book consistently comes back to the question that is presents on the inside cover and that I chose for my article title which is if you are finding yourself busy but not productive then you are not being led by the essential in your work and in your life. Are you investing in the right activities in your life and do you even know what the right activities for you should be? It involves asking a lot of tough questions and challenging some of your everyday tasks to be more mission critical. 

The steps towards becoming an essentialist divide up the sections of the book and are as follows: Explore, Eliminate, Execute. We must find out what is taking up our time in nonessential ways, eliminate what is not and then work towards making the essential easier to accomplish. No matter what area we find ourselves working in, we have to stop solving problems with work harder and realign our goals by working smarter. The book suggests our greatest asset to making a contribution in the world is ourselves and we need to protect that asset (94) and I could not agree more. How can we do our work the best and support others if we are not at our own personal best. This lesson is truly applicable in all areas of our lives. I have certainly noticed and utilized this principle going through curriculum development with the principle of less but better and you are consistently asking yourself why we do what we do. Simon Sinek in his Ted Talk Starts with Why reaffirms this same idea and once we have that personal why we can begin the process of moving towards essential.

One of the great examples from the book is to think of your life like your closet: it can become cluttered and disorganized very quickly if you just fill it with things you like. We sometimes ask questions like “will I wear this someday?” when we should be asking “Do I love this or wear it often?” Think about asking those questions about your life. Do I love what I do instead of just liking it? Do I just do things that are good but not moving me towards my ultimate goals and purpose? Three points must be accepted to be an essentialist in this way: we can choose how to spend our energy, almost everything is “noise”, and we can’t have/do it all. When we start to see our lives in this way, we say no to good so we can accomplish great and our lives become less about checking things off on our big to do list and we can then see that we accomplished 5 or 6 things in a great way. 

The person who bought this book for me definitely know me well enough to know I needed this book but I recommend it to all of you because I think we could all use a bit of a refocus on the essential. A great book with a lot of concrete strategies on how you can become essential and have it make the biggest difference in your life so I hope you pick it up soon and begin making those changes.
 Don’t forget to connect if you want to continue the conversation! @MrNatale

Andrew Natale 



Residence Life Coordinator Brock University

Residence Life Conference: A Newcomers Perspective Haryssan Shanmuganathan Residence Life Coordinator Carleton University

Starting junior kindergarten at the age of four, and graduating from university at the age of twenty-three – for the majority of my life I have been a student. I was fortunate enough to be involved in Residence Life during my time in university as student, and now being involved in Residence Life as a professional – there is a big shift in mentality that occurs. This shift is something any new professional to Residence Life can speak to, and realizes. Finding ones professional self can bring its challenges. From


maintaining balance in the role between work and personal, being far from family and friends for the first time, understanding my leadership style– are all different unique challenges I personally faced. Most new professionals face a unique challenge when being on the other side. This is where conferences like the Residence Life Conference come in handy. Here you meet individuals that are in the same boat as you, entering the professional world for the first time.




Here I got to reunite with those people that I met the year prior. This time the connection came from the other side. The conversation with colleagues now turned into how the professional life was treating one another, what unique challenges we faced – and how we are working to overcome them. It became a place to share strategies on how to healthy balance work CONESTOGA DELEGATION and personal, manage being away from home, and sharing different leadership styles. It Two years ago attending the Residence Life became a place to share and learn amongst Conference I was student staff. I was eager to peers, develop oneself as a professional, and get to know other individuals who shared the collectively support one another. Everyone has same drive of getting into Residence Life as a their own unique stories, and their unique professional. It proved to be a great opportunity challenges. This is no different when turning to get to know people and make connections, professional, and having conferences such as and see firsthand what it took to get into the these only helps new professionals ease into world of Residence Life. Jumping to this year, I being on the other side of Residence Life, and had the opportunity to attend as a professional. find their professional self.




 and the RLC

Do you recall your first experience as a student staff member, attending the Residence Life Conference full of spirit, passion and enthusiasm? What about your first time attending the Residence Life Conference as a professional staff member? The experience of being a new professional at a conference can sometimes be a bag of mixed feelings, ranging from imposter syndrome to feeling inspired by the creativity and energy of those around you. This year’s Residence Life Conference hosted by Trent University gave professional staff a unique opportunity to engage with each other in a day-long professional development workshop, aimed at creating inclusive communities on our campuses and in residence led by Dr. Christina Yao. Additionally, professional staff were encouraged to support their student delegation by visiting presentations and contributing to the environment of curiosity and learning that surrounds this annual event. Below are reflections from some of our new professionals who attended the RLC @ TrentU this past October. Please join me in thanking them for their contributions!

“Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we’ve ever known.”
 – Ronald Reagan

“With its promise of high spirit, peer learning and personal development opportunities, it didn’t take long for the Residence Life Conference to become one of my favourite weekends in the Res Life world. However, a recent transition to the professional stream left me unsure of what to expect this time through. I joined Dr. Christina Yao as she led the professional stream through a conversation on job performance as illustrated in the novel Better, by Atul Gawande. In Better, the term ‘positive deviance’ was introduced as building on capabilities that people already have rather than telling them how they have to change. After reading this, I’ve been more diligent at work to build people up – whether it’s my staff team, residents in my community or my colleagues. These moments require a lot of patience and energy but its contribution to creating a positive community make it worth the efforts.” Erica Fearnall, Residence Life Coordinator Niagara College THE OACUHO PULSE NOV/DEC EDITION


“As someone who attended RLC a few years ago as a student staff representing Western University, I was more than ecstatic to return as a Professional. I must say that I wasn’t disappointed when I arrived in Peterborough in my soccer mom van, with the Western Delegation. The conference was a great way to network with individuals from other institutions with various levels of experience. However, the greatest highlight for me was the pride I had for the Western Delegates. They strategized so they could see as many presentations as possible and then reconnected to share their learning with each other, myself and their peers who could not attend. They showed spirit, professionalism, respect and most importantly good dance skills at the banquet. Attending as a professional has made me realize how excited I am to be working in this field and learn along the way from incredible individuals.”

Michelle Lidka, Residence Manager Western University

Compiled by Dimple Savla
 Associate Director, Residence Life
 Campus Living Centres



“Attending this year’s Residence Life Conference at Trent University was an amazing opportunity for professional development and networking. The professional stream was led by Dr. Christina Yao from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Sticking with the theme of “Challenge the Way You Think”, Dr. Yao challenged our thinking by: • Comparing the Residence Life field to the world of Medicine through Atul Gawande’s book, Better • Allowing us to come up with our own solutions for common problems around creating inclusive communities • Leaving us with more questions than answers, so we could frame our further professional development beyond the conference As a new professional, the professional stream allowed me to broaden my perspective on my role and Residence Life as a whole, provided me with insight to tackle my challenges back at my institution, and allowed me to learn from seasoned pros in a very relaxed but constructive way. Attending the Residence Life Conference for the first time ever was a great motivator before the November slump and is something I will never forget.”

Rebecca Garde, Residence Life Coordinator Conestoga College

Ontario Association of College and University Housing Officers 312 Oakwood Crt, Newmarket Ontario, L3Y 3C8 
 Telephone: 905-954-0102 Fax: 905-895-1630

The Pulse November/December  
The Pulse November/December  

The Official Newsletter of the Ontario Association of College and University Housing Officers