Vice president for resident life, Campus Advantage
Resident and parent feedback helped shape Campus Advantage’s new resident life initiative, LaunchU that reaches residents where they live.
Today’s college students are craving information about how to land that first job after graduation. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. What might come as a surprise is the important role student housing managers can play in preparing residents for life after college. Residence life programming and activities can teach students not only how to study effectively but also how to build their own personal brands and succeed after college.
Every year—before the academic year even starts—Campus Advantage’s residence life team sends out an electronic survey to all of our residents and their parents to identify the types of programs they want to see, the ways in which we can help them succeed and the social and community involvement activities that appeal to them the most. We have been doing the survey for four years, and it has shown us that students are paying more attention than ever to the nation’s economy and the challenges they fear they will face in securing jobs after college.
Our latest survey, conducted this past summer, indicates that students want our properties to organize study groups, tutoring information, and academic success workshops. Residents—and their parents—say they are interested in residence life programs about job/internship search skills, how to interview and network, resume development and achieving financial success.
But today’s millennial generation isn’t always the easiest to reach with traditional residence life programming. This generation spends a lot of time online. They watch entertainment programs, get their news and even connect with friends through online sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Hulu, and YouTube.
To meet today’s college students where they live and socialize, Campus Advantage rolled out a new program called LaunchU this past spring. It is a student-focused program designed to help residents succeed in their school, career and personal lives. The program consists of an online “Success Portal” for residents, webinars, resident networking opportunities, and onsite programs.
The idea for the program came from our annual resident surveys, conversations with our Resident Directors and Community Assistants and through the work of our company’s Residence Life Committee. Our residents have many options for participating in the program. They can take advantage of the articles and resources at LaunchU.net, attend programs and events at their communities, participate in online webinars and connect with others through the program’s LinkedIn and Facebook groups.
In September, we held our first LaunchU webinar. It featured a presentation by personal branding expert Dan Schawbel. Dan’s book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. Many of our properties organized their own viewing parties for the Sept. 18 live event. Even before the webinar started, we received 324 resident-submitted questions for Dan. That shows me the tremendous demand among our residents for this type of programming.
That’s just one example of a successful LaunchU program. Last spring, we asked all of our properties to organize their own, in-person programs. We gave them the topic, the format and the resources to conduct these programs but also gave them the flexibility to customize their activities to their own residents.
We are working with our properties and their residence life staffs to build on the momentum started last spring with regular LaunchU programming throughout the year. Programs might include resident networking events, campus speakers, visits from former Campus Advantage residents who have gone on to successful careers and dinner or lunch with local officials. Every year, more than 15,000 new students join the Campus Advantage family, so we are also using LaunchU to build a network among our former and current residents.
In addition to the in-person activities, the LaunchU website at www.launchu.net features a wealth of information that is available to everyone. The site features blog posts to help students in different areas of their lives—financial, academic and career. We’ve also partnered with bloggers across the Internet to assemble a variety of content on topics of interest to college students. For example, site visitors will find posts on money management, the perks of unpaid internships, top 10 best credit cards for college students and cover letters that sell—just to name a few of the recent topics covered.
LaunchU was born out of our company’s core philosophy, which is that we want our residents to be more successful for having lived at one of our properties. For us, success is our No. 1 amenity. That really should be the same goal for anyone in student housing.
Oltersdorf is known internationally as a leader in the field of residence life. He is a published author of two books and has been featured in numerous online and print publications. He is also regularly featured as a keynote speaker at student leadership and student housing industry conferences.