Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, January 28, 2011

Project aims to enliven the North Campus experience

The woods and large, sloping greenways give a suburban feel to the university's busy and burgeoning northern neighborhood. With a growing population of students at North Campus, the Division of Student Affairs, academics and other units are building a team to assess and enhance its social and cultural opportunities, leading toward the university's North Campus vision.

Evolving from a cross-functional committee formed last summer to examine needs and opportunities to enhance vibrancy on North Campus for all students as well as faculty and staff there, the North Campus Project has been launched with a project manager, steering committee and a soon-to-be-formed advisory committee chaired by Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper.

University leaders and students from different academic and administrative units will comprise the steering committee and advisory committee to identify and support more in-depth, long-term enhancements to the experience on North Campus.

North Campus is home to the College of Engineering, the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the School of Art & Design, and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. It has a student union and a recreation center, a digital media center, residence halls and student apartments, and parking. The campus also hosts the Bentley Historical Library and the Gerald R. Ford Library. The North Campus Research Center is the newest addition to the neighborhood. And there are those deer and raccoons.

For all that is going on at North Campus, many students look south to the Central Campus as the traditional hub of social and cultural activities. Deans, faculty, staff and students have suggested that more proactive efforts could make North Campus life better.

"We have heard from many students that the North Campus is a place to live or to attend classes, but they don't see it as a university neighborhood with its own life," Harper says. "The deans and faculty have expressed their wishes, and we agree, that more energy and programming should be infused into North Campus, to make it a destination of choice for students and colleagues. It's important that we seize this opportunity."

More than 4,100 undergraduate and graduate students live on North Campus, and thousands more each day attend classes and engage in advanced research. Previous studies have confirmed that at its weekly peak on Wednesday afternoons, more than 14,000 individuals are taking classes, teaching or employed on North Campus.

Working to make the North Campus vision a reality, Student Affairs partnered last year with Academic Affairs to launch a new learning community, "Living Arts," at Bursley Hall. When it became apparent that this year's freshman class was going to be the largest ever, a new first-year residential community, Northwood Houses, was established near Bursley Hall. Representatives from many campus units met to coordinate additional resources and support for the growing residential community on North Campus.

As the North Campus Project manager, Elizabeth Zollweg is responsible for leading the steering committee in taking inventory of current campus efforts, programs and services that are successful, and to evaluate gaps between what exists and what is needed to better serve North Campus. The assessment will include student opinions and needs. By fall 2011 there should be a schedule of social, cultural and academic offerings that promote co-curricular and community-building efforts.

"I think the aspect that I am most looking forward to with this project is connecting with students and the academic side of the university in efforts to foster the vibrant community we know is the potential of North Campus," Zollweg says. "I keep telling myself and others that North Campus is about to take off. This is such an exciting thing to be a part of."

Currently the assistant director of the Challenge Program in the Department of Recreational Sports, Zollweg will devote half her time to the project through June 30, 2012. She also serves on the department's Student Development and Leadership Committee and has volunteered for the VOICES of the Staff program at U-M. She is a member of the Division of Student Affairs Professional Development Functional Group and has been an MHealthy wellness champion for the last five years. A graduate of Kent State University, she is pursuing a master's degree in educational leadership in higher education/student affairs at Eastern Michigan University.

"We're delighted to have Elizabeth's experience and energy leading the charge for the North Campus Project steering committee," Harper says. "With the collaboration of many other colleagues who represent important support for campus life, we look forward to strengthening and expanding opportunities to live into our university's North Campus vision."