Enhancing the Student Experience
College students obviously encounter a great number of changes when they begin their college career. They may be living away from home for the first time, meeting new people from many different cultures, and looking for ways to get involved in their new surroundings. Their out-of-classroom learning experiences are abundant, and enhancing all aspects of student life has been a priority for WKU’s transformation. From the construction of new academic buildings and the renovation of residence halls to the added emphasis on developing leadership skills and enhancing health and wellness programs, the University ensures that every student has the best possible chance for success.
Each residence hall has been fully renovated and features moveable furniture, high-speed Internet access, cable TV, a kitchen on each floor, study and TV lounges, vending machines, laundry facilities, community rooms, and resident mailboxes. Trained staff members create dynamic opportunities to provide a premier living and learning experience that encourages student success. In addition to renovation projects that began in 1999, WKU Housing & Residence Life has added Shared Interest Communities designed to bring students together who have common academic, social, and extracurricular interests. Students can create groups that are purely social or that perform community service projects. Shared Interest Communities are completely student driven and are monetarily supported by WKU Housing & Residence Life.
WKU dining facilities also have been renovated and expanded and provide food choices from the science campus at the top of the Hill to the residence halls near Pearce-Ford Tower at the bottom of the Hill and several points in between. Students can choose from the all-you-care-to-eat Fresh Food Company, several popular chain restaurants, made-to-order foods, and two on-campus convenience stores. And the Big Red Dollars program is supported by several local restaurants and businesses, giving students even more options.
Perhaps the most significant improvement to campus life is the $49 million renovation of the Downing University Center, the heart of student activities and social life at WKU. When DUC reopens in 2014, WKU’s student center will be state-of-the-art and will feature upgraded dining, new offices for student organizations, a 24-hour study area, larger meeting rooms, and a new WKU Store.
Programming offered by the Campus Activities Board, the Cultural Enhancement Series, various academic departments, and extracurricular organizations offer WKU students more opportunities than ever before to attend concerts, lectures, theatre productions, musical performances, presentations, workshops, seminars, and more on campus each semester.
Health and wellness
The Raymond B. Preston Health and Activities Center, one of the finest recreational sports and fitness facilities in the country, opened to students, faculty, and staff in 1992. In 2010 a larger, state-of-the-art fitness center was added. Programming by Preston Center staff offers a variety of fall and spring intramural sports as well as outdoor educational activities and other programs for students to enjoy.
In 2008 WKU opened the new and improved Health Services Center to better serve the health and wellness needs of the campus community. The full-service primary care center has three full-time board certified physicians and two nurse practitioners and offers patients state-of-the-art treatment and diagnostic capabilities. In addition, Health Services provides numerous health education workshops and programs that benefit students, faculty, and staff.
Leadership and volunteerism
WKU students seeking opportunities to get involved and develop leadership skills can choose from more than 300 clubs and organizations. Students have the opportunity to participate in the Dynamic Leadership Institute and other leadership & volunteerism activities. DLI is a four-phase program designed to teach students interpersonal skills and knowledge needed to engage in leadership roles on campus, within the community, and in their future careers. The program, which began with 90 students in 1994, has grown to 1,000 students annually. Involvement in these dedicated leadership programs provides students a foundation for success, a passion for learning, and a commitment to responsible global citizenship while fostering creativity and service to others.
As a measure of growth in these areas, the budgets for the Student Government Association and the Campus Activities Board have increased from $240,000 to $430,000. Student membership in the Greek community has grown from 1,300 to 1,850, and the number of Greek organizations has grown from 27 to 33.
In 2005, the Board of Regents approved a plan to create a Greek Village on the north end of campus. As of 2012, three organizations have completed houses, one is under construction, two are in the planning stages, and two more are initiating the process to relocate.
As WKU’s African American enrollment has grown from 928 in 1997 to 2,179 in 2011, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion has continued to develop and improve programs that enhance the campus climate for diversity, social justice, leadership, and intellectual growth.
One such program is the Outstanding Black Graduates Recognition Ceremony, which has been held each semester since May 1998. The program has become a much-anticipated event by the University, families, friends, and, of course, the graduates.
Student support services
The Student Success Center, located in the Downing University Center since 2006, offers students needing academic assistance several options for support.
Each year the Academic Advising & Retention Center logs more than 70,000 student visits, providing critical academic support necessary to help students achieve their academic goals and to progress toward degree completion. In addition, peer-to-peer tutoring is offered through The Learning Center, which was created to promote student success, enhance student performance, and increase student retention.
Student Disability Services works to ensure that students with disabilities have access to all facets of the WKU experience by reviewing disability documentation, meeting with students to determine appropriate accommodations, and partnering with other areas on campus to implement those accommodations.
The Career Services Center has expanded its mission to assist students in identifying and reaching their career and employment goals to include career exploration and academic career guidance. They assist students with preparing resumes and cover letters, practicing interview skills, researching job openings and employers, locating potential employers, and accessing online job databases.
Because the university experience should be challenging but not overwhelming, the Counseling and Testing Center, located at Potter Hall, provides a safe, non-judgmental space to work through issues that some college students face including homesickness, depression, or eating disorders. Specially trained counselors and psychologists are available to help students meet these challenges head-on before they become serious problems.
Campus safety and communication
Campus safety is a primary concern at WKU. Safety and security workshops are taught at MASTER Plan, students are encouraged to sign up for text alerts, and a nightly student escort service is available through the Campus Police Department, which operates 24/7. The University uses a variety of tools to communicate with students during an emergency, weather-related event, or any event that may cause disruption in the normal campus routine. Communication tools include text messages, mass email, indoor and outdoor warning systems, website alerts, social media, campus cable television system, digital signage, and local news.
“Dr. Gary Ransdell’s involvement in developing a campus that is receptive to college students has been second to none. Campus life and the campus climate have changed under (President Ransdell’s) leadership. It’s not just a place to take classes and go home – it’s a place to grow and live.” — Howard Bailey, Vice President for Student Affairs