Residence Hall Southwest Earns Regional Honor as Community of Year
Award Recognizes Outstanding Programming, Atmosphere, Campus Involvement by Students, Staff
Getting residents engaged in campus and community activities is a priority for the staff members of Residence Hall Southwest.
When Residence Hall Southwest opened on campus in fall 2013, it looked like the other three residence halls at UT Dallas. Its student residents and staff, however, wanted to do more than just blend in with the rest.
To help the then-newest residence hall stand out, peer advisors selected a hall theme of “Heroes vs. Villains,” choosing popular characters from Marvel Comics that included the X-Men, The Avengers and Spider-Man for each wing.
Residential Life staff members then worked toward having Residence Hall Southwest become a “super-community” with heavy student involvement on campus.
Their efforts paid off. Residence Hall Southwest has been named Community of the Year at the regional Southwest Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls (SWACURH) conference, which was held in November at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
“From the student staff to the freshman residents in the hall, they made sure that Southwest stood out among the rest,” said Kaytie Farrell, Residential Life assistant director of Community Development, who was coordinator for the hall last year.
The award recognizes communities in the Southwest region with outstanding programming and community atmosphere, as well as high student and staff involvement. UT Dallas bested such institutions as Texas Tech University, Southern Methodist University, Stephen F. Austin University and the University of North Texas.
Residence Hall Southwest housed 384 freshmen last year — including the incoming class of Terry Scholars — as well as 16 peer advisors and two full-time staff members.
Residence Hall Southwest residents were among the 400 students who volunteered at 24 area nonprofit agencies during Viva Volunteer, held annually in conjunction with the national Make a Difference Day.
Farrell said the biggest challenge she faced when encouraging students to become more involved on campus was getting academically driven students to think beyond their GPAs and engage in other activities the University had to offer.
During Welcome Week, for instance, residents were persuaded to compete in the Residence Hall Rumble, a series of events that included races, dance competitions and even a rock-paper-scissors tournament. Residence Hall Southwest took home the trophy and also won the award for most-spirited.
That competitive edge lasted throughout the year, as residents participated in intramural sports and racked up enough points to take home the title of House Cup Winners.
Residents also became active in a variety of club sports, academic associations, cultural organizations, service projects and student organizations. They organized seasonal events for the hall that included decorating the lobby for the holiday and carving jack-o’-lanterns, as well as game nights and other socials.
Many of the hall’s residents took leadership positions in their organizations, and Residence Hall Southwest produced the most peer advisor applicants for residence halls last year, said Catherine Pickrel, director of Residential Life.
Pickrel credited the Community of the Year recognition to Farrell’s commitment and dedication to nurturing campus spirit. Ever since Farrell began as a Residential Life coordinator in July 2009, she also has worked with UT Dallas students who participate in national residence hall organizations. In 2011, Farrell was regional advisor for the regional board of directors of SWACURH.
“Kaytie fostered a good rapport her with residents and peer advisors, who were a close-knit, supportive staff with an enthusiasm for living on campus that spread to their residents,” Pickrel said.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].