As we reach the end of the year, we start to come to some realization that things will never be the same after the last class. Our residents will move on to their new floors and apartments, both the professional and student staff will change, our senior friends will graduate, and we will change with new experiences over the summer. All of us will experience a large transition into the next phase of a college career or in some cases out of a college career. We as a residence life staff need to prepare our students and ourselves for the end of the year and the transition for a new stage of life.
Why should we worry about closure- what is the need for closure? The ideals of closure allow for us to reflect on the learning that has occurred over the year. Furthermore, closure allows us to internally and externally examine our growth in a spiritual, cognitive, emotional, and social perspective. Closure also allows us to look forward to the future and begin the itinerary for a new beginning. Closure allows us:
• Time to reflect on what residents have learned about themselves and each other.
• Time to reflect on how residents feel about each other and the events of the past year.
• Time to begin the transition (intellectually and emotionally) into their new roles (summer employee, family, best friend at home, etc) as they leave the university.
• Time to articulate to others the impact they have had on your life.
• Time to reflect on what is now important to you as opposed to the arrival at the beginning of the year.
Closure should be celebrative and ritualistic. According to Ernest Boyer, Community is built upon the ideas of rituals and celebrating. Orientation, first floor meeting, winter inter-session, room selection, spring break, spring fling, final floor meeting, and graduation are just some examples of the rituals that bring meaning and mattering to a resident. The final ritual of the year should be a closure activity that allows the residents to ponder the year as a whole and the impact it has had on them.
Here are 10 ideas to aid you with your end-of-the-year programming efforts:
1. At your last floor meeting of the year, you can have residents answer the following questions. Questions can be altered or changed to fit the needs of your floor and/or residents.
• When I first met people on this floor, I thought…
• The best part about living on this floor has been…
• One thing I learned from living on this floor is…
• One thing I learned about myself this year is…
• What I’ll miss most about living here is…
• I laughed the hardest when…
• One time somebody on the floor helped me was when…
• The toughest part of this year was…
• If I had this year to do over, I would…
• My favorite memory about living here will always be…
• The thing I will remember about living on this hall is…2.Throw a “Create A Scrap Book” night and you supply the Polaroid Camera and film. Make scrap books of the year and encourage residents to bring their favorite pictures of the past year.
3. Have a T-shirt signing party. Have residents bring their favorite plain color t-shirt and you supply the sharpie markers. Residents can comment and sign everyone’s t-shirts.
4. Create a Graffiti Board. Make your May bulletin board into a graffiti board where residents can leave their summer address and their best memories of the last year for the floor.
5. Have a study breaker during the last few nights of finals. During the study breaker, have residents make their own “autograph books” out of construction paper and ribbon.
6. Have a “Bags ‘O Love” program. Have residents decorate brown paper bags with magazine clippings and hang the bags on the front of every person’s door. Then with index cards have residents write notes of thanks to everyone on the floor. Once the notes are completed have the residents deliver them to bag that corresponds with the note.
7. Have an end of the semester dinner in the cafeteria. Your entire floor can go to have a final dinner together in the cafeteria where you will give out gag awards to all residents on your floor.
8. Do a food and clothing drive. At your last floor meeting, have residents design boxes from magazine clippings that best represent their community. Once the boxes are completed, they should be placed in the middle of the floor. Residents should place unused food and unwanted clothes into the boxes. The boxes should be donated to the Goodwill in your area on graduation day.
9. Hold an “End of the Year Movie.” As your last program, you can show videotape of you and your floor as they have lived the past few weeks. The video can contain lots of humor and floor jokes as well as some great music that brings the entire year to tender ending.
10. You can create “Hall Stationary” for all of the residents on the floor. You can encourage all of the residents to write each other over the summer with the stationary. You can also start a “Hall Address Book” to give to all residents to accompany their new stationary.
As you leave the year behind, think about what you have gained from your RA experience and what you will miss about the residents on your floor.
• Laugh at that funny moment in the bathroom with the five residents from down the hall.
• Think about how far you have come with creating this community.
• Reflect on what you have learned from your residents
• Re-live the moment of your first confrontation and how much you have changed because of it
• Tell your Resident Director the effect he/she has had on your life
The following poem by Rich Bach best expresses the end of the year:
Don’t be dismayed at good-byes
A farewell is necessary before we meet again!
And meeting again,
After moments or lifetimes, is certain for those
Who are friends.
Submitted by Bil Leipold, Assistant Director of Housing & Residence Life Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-Newark Campus