From dogs and The Dark Knight to trivia and themed housing, the Office of Student Development has created multiple programs this fall designed to unite and engage students in college life.
Spearheaded by Sarah Kelly, vice president for student development and dean of students, the first program offers a four-legged approach to honoring Wittenberg’s focus on service. Working with 4 Paws for Ability, based in Xenia, Ohio, Kelly has coordinated the placement of four service dogs in-training on campus. With its high level of activity, numerous events and diverse population, Wittenberg provides a perfect environment for such training, according to Kelly. The dogs also remind students of home.
“Time and again, I hear how much students miss their dogs when they go to college,” Kelly said. “This program allows all of our students to benefit. The dogs are certainly not lacking attention.”
As part of the program, four golden retrievers named Bizkit, N’Sync, Pansy and Lasser have been placed with students Alex Potapenko ’09, Lauren Bryant ’09, Lilly Pate ’09, and Chrissie Shuss ’10 and Emily Rudman ’10, respectively. Regularly seen on campus and in the community, the four dogs will eventually be placed in the homes of families with children who have autism to provide companionship and promote socialization and communication.
Student Development is also looking to expand themed housing on campus. Special-interest housing currently includes residences with an international focus as well as the newly established Geek House for the high-tech minded. Plans are underway for an eco-house, and several student groups are in the process of developing theme house proposals for a competition this winter prior to the upper class housing lottery.
“I’m very excited about the possibilities,” Kelly said. “Our students are so talented and creative that I’m sure the competition will be pretty fierce.”
At the same time, Kelly and her team have launched “Witt Wednesdays,” which have grown in popularity in just a few short weeks. Every Wednesday, students have the opportunity to enjoy a special programming event with a social focus, including viewing the latest movies with friends to trivia nights, rock band competitions and other social engagement opportunities
“Since establishing Witt Wednesdays, we’ve noticed that more and more students are staying on campus for social engagement,” Kelly said. “We also have several student groups coming to us saying, ‘We want to sponsor a Witt Wednesday.’ That is exactly what we want to happen, because when it comes from the students, it’s bound to be more successful.”
Lastly, believing that early intervention is critical to reducing the number of alcohol-related incidents, Student Development has partnered with Jo Wilson, Keil Professor of Psychology, to begin seminar-style conversations with students on the dangers associated with excessive alcohol usage. Parents have also been included in the conversations.
“This approach is much more personal,” Kelly said. “Helping students become more aware of alcohol-related issues right here on campus with one of our own professors also reflects the nurturing atmosphere found at Wittenberg.”
-Karen Gerboth ‘93