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Friday, December 15, 2017

DCC housing director working hard to improve dorm life

By Kyle Vuille

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

With the students at Dawson Community College settling in for their seventh week of classes, Director of Housing and Residential Education, Stephanie Lewis, is keeping busy and trying to keep student morale high.

At the Sept. 25 board of trustees meeting, Lewis discussed the progress of dorm life since the beginning of school and introduced a program called The Adopt-A-Room Project. The project is a full scale renovation project for all 35 dorm units. 

This year, 133 out of the 140 total beds have been taken up, with 81 boys and 52 girls. 

A first for student living this year at the college is the new Residence Assistance (RA) Program. Lewis said she has her RA’s in uniform working in shifts around the clock and there is even an RA on call 24/7 for student emergencies.

“We have four RA’s on our staff. These are students that live amongst our other students, they are student leaders,” Lewis said. “They help me with a lot of things, they help me with nightly checks as far as we have shifts from 7 to 11 a.m. there in the commons so if students get locked out, so if students have a need on campus, anything that happens in that time, they are available.”

Lewis also mentioned the RA’s cover at least one area of advocacy a month and attend leadership classes and seminars to better serve their fellow students.

With the dorms being at almost full capacity this year and receiving the support of the RA’s, Lewis is trying to upgrade the units for the students. Her project goal is to repaint the walls with warmer colors and fill every unit with new furniture as well as new flooring and carpet.

As Director of Housing and Residential Education, Lewis lives in one of the units with her husband and two children and has upgraded her family’s unit the way she plans to modernize the students’.

With the upgrades, Lewis’ objective is to raise the look and appeal of DCC in the competitive world of colleges fighting to be chosen by prospective students. Lewis said she had spoke from several students who transferred and received positive feedback.

“I’ve have two students  right now who transferred from Miles City that have said to me personally ‘your units are bigger, less expensive, and offer more,’” Lewis said.

According to Lewis, a national survey showed that housing is the third most important deciding factor for prospective college students, housing coming after the courses offered and if the school has the sport they play.

As important to recruiting students, is retaining them. 

Lewis noted that from fall 2016 semester to the end of 2017 spring semester, the number of students living in the dorms went from 127 to 97 which made for an overall retention loss of 23.62 percent. Upgrading the housing units is just part of Lewis’ plan to dramatically reduce that loss ratio.

The cost, per unit, of the new furniture, carpet, laminate flooring and paint will amount to approximately $6,000.

In the meeting, Lewis announced she had recently just purchased new tables for the units and joked she would buy pizza for anyone willing to help assemble them. Other pieces of furniture  such as couches, chairs and coffee tables were donated from the unoccupied Makoshika Estates and have been used in “The Cove”, DCC’s dorm student center.

The way The Adopt-a-Room Project is envisioned, there will be three levels of donations: silver, gold and platinum.

The silver level donation is for the amount of $2,000. Since the $2,000 is only a third of the cost for each room, a plaque sharing the three separate donors will be hung outside the unit. The corresponding gold level sponsorship is $4,000 with the plaque displaying the donors. Making a full $6,000 donation will make the donor a platinum level member and only his or her will be displayed on the plaque.

In an email Thursday, Lewis said she hopes people will get behind the effort. 

“We are looking to the support of alumni, family, friends and our loved community to be a part of our Adopt-a-Room project. We are looking to offer our students and prospective students yet another great reason to choose Dawson for higher education over other schools in the surrounding areas.”

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