Students Helping Students Feel Welcome at SU

They arrive on campus when most undergraduates are finishing classes for the day–most having already put in a full day’s work. They eat on the fly, and many, when they leave campus at 9 p.m., return home to family responsibilities. How does a university make graduate students feel comfortable and welcomed? It creates an award-winning Collegium program and hires graduate students to oversee the programming. A winning combination in which the spaces fill a need for non-tradition students, and provide current graduate students meaningful, hands-on job experience.   

There are five Collegium spaces housed in various buildings on campus designed as a “home-away-from-home” for students who don’t reside on campus. Each Collegium is designated for a specific group of students—for example the Reidy Collegium is for commuter juniors and seniors majoring in science, engineering and nursing.  

Graduate students have a collegium space on the first floor of Hunthausen. The McGoldrick Collegium, open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., welcomes graduate students, military veterans and non-traditional undergraduates who are 25 or older.  Students can renew themselves between classes, meet with classmates and faculty in a relaxed setting, have conversations with friends and enjoy a snack or special activity. There is a full kitchen, inviting furniture, reading lamps and a large table for working or playing one of the many board games available.  The kitchen is stocked with an honor bar that offers snacks and grab-n-go small meals that can be popped in the microwave. A small refrigerator is also available.  

Each Collegium is staffed by undergraduate and graduates tu dent workers, and the coordinator for each Collegium is a Student Development Administration Graduate Assistant who comes to campus early in September for an intensive training program. The Graduate Assistants plan themes and activities for the year such as pancake breakfasts, career counseling nights and wellness demonstrations. 

Brian Wasserman, a first-year SDA student, is the coordinator of the McGoldrick Collegium this academic year. The student assistants in McGoldrick are COE graduate students: Annie Zhou, School Psychology, and Carlos Sibaja-Garcia, TESOL.  

“The Collegia started when the administration heard that commuter students were eating lunch in their cars,” said Wasserman. “I was a commuter student as an undergraduate, so I could relate to this. We have to realize that this is as much their campus as it is anyone’s.” 

SDA Graduate Assistants who are coordinators for the other Collegia on campus include: James Spaan, Sha’terika Perkins and Kaitlyn Ehlers. 

“I have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the student population here,” said Ehlers.  

“We have to be aware of and understand the differences in the students at the university,” said Spaan. “We are providing a place where they can be engaged in the campus culture and be connected.” 

“This is a great experience for SDA students who, as professionals, will need to recognize that the population they serve on a campus can include a wide variety of students who are having different experiences and are engaged at varying levels,” said Erin Swezey, coordinator of internships for the SDA program.  

There are approximately 36 Graduate Students from the SDA program working as Graduate Assistants on the Seattle University campus.  

“The GA experience in the Collegia is a win-win situation for the University,” said Swezey. “While our students are helping other students have a great experience and engage in the university, they are gaining valuable knowledge and skills that will make them better professionals in the field.”