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This week Fresh@News is talking to Paul Pugh, Dean of Students, and Christine Quisenberry, Assistant to the President for Events, about two interesting events coming up this week.
Fresh@News : It has been a busy week for the class of 2013, so I thought the two of you could help tell us about House Calls and the St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration. Let’s start with House Calls. Dean Pugh, you coordinate this event, can you tell us a little about it?
Dean Paul Pugh: Each fall, the Dean of Students office picks an evening when teams of faculty members, coaches, campus ministers, and administrators visit EVERY freshman residence hall room. We call it “House Calls” and this year it will be on Wednesday, September 16th. Teams will also meet with commuting students this week.
Fresh@News : So what actually happens?
Dean Paul Pugh: We go to the halls in teams of two and are assigned to an area or floor in one of the residence halls. We knock on the students’ door, and if they are in (they were all told we were coming), we sit down and talk to them for five minutes or so, just to assess how they were doing after a few weeks of college.
Fresh@News : And what are some of the conversations like?
Dean Paul Pugh: Typically, most of what we hear was very positive. The students we met with last year said they had made some good connections with other students in the hall, were getting into the rhythm of classes, and were exploring or already involved in some activities. We hear some common concerns about buildings without air conditioners, or students who are not too crazy about the bathrooms. But most of what our teams hear is encouraging. Sometimes a team will pick up on some more serious issues and those concerns are referred to the appropriate person or office for follow up, and, of course, it is important just to let the students know that we care about how they are doing.
Fresh@News : It sounds like the faculty and staff really enjoy the program.
Dean Paul Pugh: Actually, I think the faculty and staff enjoy House Calls as much as the students do. In one of his books about teaching, St. Augustine reminds us that an effective teacher must understand who the students are, and what their backgrounds and interests are. Visiting students in their rooms, seeing how they live, and hearing about their lives really helps us know them better. The connections made that night are important on many levels, specifically the outreach to the students and the communication between the students and the faculty/staff teams.
Fresh@News : Thanks Dean Pugh, and now let’s turn to Chrissy Quisenberry. Can you tell us about the Day of Service that is part of the St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration? It sounds like another important event for the class of 2013, as well as for the whole Villanova community.
Chrissy Quisenberry: Actually, the Day of Service is on Saturday, September 19, and as you point out, involves a large number of Villanova community members. This is our 4th year coordinating this event and each year the committee works hard to coordinate those participants at over 100 sites.
Fresh@News : That sounds great. And what did the Day of Service entail?
Chrissy Quisenberry: On Saturday, over 3,000 members of our community participated in the Day of Service. Faculty, staff and students gathered in the Pavilion early on Saturday morning. There is always a lot of excitement in the room even at 8:30 in the morning! A few short talks set the tone for the day. I particularly remember from the 2008 Day of Service, the words of Joe Bob Gonzalez, a student from the Brownsville, Texas area, who talked about one of his early service experiences. He was helping two young kids with reading, and was working on simple one-syllable words like “bed.” He said to the boys, “You know this one, it is where you sleep.” When boys said, “Yes, but we don’t sleep on a bed, we sleep on the floor.” This experience really helped the student understand that service is not just about helping others, but about learning about the world we live in and the need for change. Before everyone leaves for the day of service, the President, Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., gives a blessing, and we start the process of loading around 100 buses and vans to get the day underway.
Fresh@News : So where did the students go for their service?
Chrissy Quisenberry: The students go to various sites throughout Philadelphia serving the needs of the community through the help of local organizations. The entire program is a wonderful testament to the life of St. Thomas of Villanova, who spent his life serving the poor. The buses and vans return to campus in the late afternoon, just in time for all of us to enjoy a wonderful community Liturgy and dinner in the Pavilion. The students look tired and dirty at the end of the day, after their experiences with painting, cleaning, and a variety of other activities, but many know that they had both accomplished something and also had some real learning. Our Dining Services staff provides us with a delicious meal and we are all able to discuss our different experiences throughout the day.
Fresh@News : What type of work are people doing on Saturday?
Chrissy Quisenberry: We have a wide variety of service opportunities for people around the city. We have teams at the Philadelphia Zoo, local parks, churches, homeless shelters and food pantries, elder centers, just to name a few. One of our largest contingencies is working with the Heart of Camden, a community based organization that is dedicated to revitalizing neighborhoods in Camden, NJ through providing affordable housing along with family and youth services and human development. We also have quite a few people working with Habitat for Humanity at our local affiliates.
Fresh@News : How did students get involved?
Chrissy Quisenberry: In the weeks leading up to the weekend, students, faculty and staff were able to sign up online through our website and choose their service location. They were able either to sign up as an individual or as part of a group. Each site was led by student leaders and one faculty or staff leader. It is great to see so many of our student organizations represented and serving together. We had athletic teams, residence halls, student organizations, fraternities and sororities, and some of our Freshman Seminar classes that signed up to serve together as a group. It is also a great way to meet new people since you were able to simply sign up individually for a service site that was of interest to you.
Fresh@News : It sounds like it is going to be a busy day.
Chrissy Quisenberry: It definitely is an exciting day to be a part of the Villanova community.
Fresh@News : Is this something that happens every year?
Chrissy Quisenberry: Yes! This is our fourth annual Day of Service and something that students, faculty, staff and community members look forward to every Fall. It is our hope that more people will be able to participate year after year!
Fresh@News : Good Luck with “House Calls” on Wednesday and the Day of Service on Saturday. The freshman are sure to enjoy two of Villanova’s annual programs!
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