3 Ways Higher Ed Professionals are Expanding Access to Student Resources

· by Ben Michalak

Every year, campus professionals grappled with the question of how to build an engaging campus environment for their students. Every department–from campus recreation to residence life–plays their own pivotal role in developing creative strategies that enhance the student experience. Although every campus has their own diverse needs, many find that expanding access to essential resources is a strategy that goes hand-in-hand with improving student engagement. 

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how three different universities found ways to expand access on their campuses through use of inventory management and student engagement technologies. 

Expanding Access to Campus Rec Equipment at Boise State University

Campus rec inventory management is not an easy task. Managing a variety of recreational equipment under sometimes more than one facility can put strain on coordinators, managers, and their staff. The same could be said for Boise State University (BSU) and their Student Recreation Center. 

Basketballs would go missing on a moment’s notice–either assumed to be taken away from the facility or to a different rec area on campus. The same happened with rec facility-provided towels. Before making a change, BSU grappled with inventory loss that disrupted their ability to provide students with a consistent enriching experience.

“A big portion of our staff members’ responsibility was to check out pieces of equipment, and, oftentimes, their job ends up being waiting for somebody to turn in equipment,” says Eden Huerta, a Member Services Coordinator at Boise State University. “It created a low fulfillment job for student staff and didn’t offer a lot of staff development.” 

To combat inventory loss, BSU turned to a few of the innovative solutions geared toward recreation management, such as people counters and towel tracking software. They also implemented RecRe’s rental platform to automate their rental platform and hold patrons accountable for returning inventory.

By taking the time and effort to improve their Student Recreation Center’s ability to monitor patron traffic and control rentals, BSU was able to expand access without cutting down their staff. In fact, they were able to provide their staff with more fulfilling jobs that didn’t revolve around tracking down missing inventory. 

“Now, we’re able to have student supervisors take responsibility in overseeing [RecRe] rental systems,” Huerta adds. “It’s one of the multiple aspects where automation can benefit the student staffing experience.” 

If you’re interested in learning more about BSU’s efforts to expand access to resources in their campus rec centers, you can access their campus success story. 

Expanding Access in Student Centers at Union College

Trends in student engagement are in constant flux, but in recent years students have signaled a shift toward smaller group activities. As a result, Assistant VP for Student Affairs at Union College Matt Milless has taken steps to meet student needs by making space for student-led activities. 

“Students are engaging in interactive activities where they have the opportunity to engage with one another,” says Milless. “They want to spend time together in groups of five to 10, not groups of 50 to 100.” 

Peer-to-peer engagement is a cornerstone of many student centers, but the scope of said engagement doesn’t need to be under the banner of a large-scale event that costs a large chunk of the budget to host. 

Putting resources in the hands of the students to organize and lead their own activities is a perfect way to empower peer-to-peer engagement while expanding access to resources. If you give students the opportunity to rent out technology–such as quality AV equipment for projects or group meetings–you can expect them to find new ways to use your student center. Agency is a great way to enable access. 

But it isn’t one size fits all. Milless stresses the importance of opening up communication channels between you and your students to truly optimize your student centers and enhance their experience. 

“If you’ve spent five minutes at the end of the day and talked to a student about something they want to talk about every day, you will be a better professional,” Milless remarked. “All it takes is five minutes of listening to them and understanding where they’re coming from.”

You can learn more about Union College and their success in improving their student engagement efforts here.

Expanding Access in Residence Halls at University of South Alabama

“It’s hard to look at Residence Life from a lens of 8am-5pm,” says Jeremy Sheffield, Ed.D., Director of Housing at University of South Alabama (USA). “You learn just as much outside the classroom as you do inside.” 

Dr. Sheffield’s remarks refer to inventory management and how USA struggled to manage access to resources. For years, these were kept behind an RA desk staffed from 8am to 5pm—the issue being many students couldn’t access them if their classes kept them out of the dorm past 5pm. 

Extending their rental hours without putting a burden on his staff became Dr. Sheffield’s mission. He learned about RecRe’s automated rental platform at a conference in 2022 and saw the potential to transform the way USA’s Housing department controlled inventory rentals. 

Rather than keep inventory behind a desk, USA used RecRe’s rental boxes to keep inventory in a publicly accessible space. Residents are now able to rent inventory at all hours of the day,  boosting student engagement across residence halls.

“To us administrators, RecRe is the ideal student engagement tool,” says Dr. Sheffield. “To students, it offers a chance for them to reflect on what they need to be successful in life. It’s not just a matter of excelling academically, but having access to and saving money on the tools to make [students] more successful in their time on campus.” 

USA is one of many campuses across the country that implemented RecRe’s automated rental platform to improve student engagement and expand access to resources. You can learn more about USA’s campus success with RecRe here.