One of the first steps in implementing a curricular approach in the residence halls is to articulate an educational priority. Educational priorities are written statements, typically 1-3 sentences, that describe the overall mission or objective of a curriculum. These priorities should be grounded in research and scholarship as well as the institutional context of the department or division implementing the curriculum.
Below you will find examples of different educational priority statements from a number of institutions. These were collected through a public web search and compiled here for easy reference. Because of the nature of the web, it should be noted that these priorities may not be the current ones employed by the colleges and universities listed. Their accuracy, however, is less important than their ability to provide examples of different ways institutions have crafted their priority statements. For many schools, educational priority statements are revised over time. This is particularly common within the first few years of implementation as a curriculum becomes more sophisticated and stabilizes over time.
Although there is no singular “correct” way to write an educational priority, the statements presented here are of varying degrees of quality. The strongest statements are 1-2 clear and succinct sentences that encapsulate the learning objectives of a curriculum while not simply being a verbatim restatement of the curriculum’s goals. In other words, the best priorities don’t state that they will focus on “X goal, X goal, and X goal.” Writing a statement in this format merely lists and restates the curricular goals without providing context for what these goals, in combination, are striving to achieve.
Suggested Activity: Brainstorm what you want your “ideal student” to be when they leave the residence halls. (Alternatively, think of a *star* student who recently graduated from your institution.) What have they learned? What can they do? How would you know you were successful as an educator? These students should be the type of student described in your educational priority.
A few global observations about priority statements:
- Some institutions did not state a specific educational priority. Instead, they stated that their goals flowed from an educational priority without articulating what that priority was. This skips an important step in describing the foundation of a curriculum.
- Some statements are written in more formal academic language whereas others are written in more accessible terms. Translating curricular-ese into student-friendly language is an important part of engaging students in a curriculum. Implementations should be mindful of having translations for both audiences: (1) a more formal statement of priority and (2) a student-focused plain-language restatement of priority.
- Because educational priorities are, in part, based on a common set of research and educational documents, many use similar language and phrases. This is okay! It’s likely that many priority statements will be similar with different twists based on the institutional contexts in which they are implemented. Doing back-of-the-napkin qualitative coding for frequencies and common themes, the following concepts arise most frequently in the listed educational priority statements:
- Global (and local) citizenship
- Community engagement
- Personal responsibility
- Towards justice and the common good
- Academic excellence
- Holistic development
Hopefully, by providing these examples of and observations about different educational priority statements, you can begin to write or hone your own. As the most basic of elements in a residential curriculum, the educational priority is the source from which all other educational objectives flow. In essence, it is the “mission statement” of your educational efforts. What do you want students to learn?
- What scholarship and institutional documents and statements inform your educational priority?
- What unique concepts might be present in an educational priority for your institution?
- Does your educational priority accurately describe the learning you hope for your students?
Example Educational Priority Statements
Developing our residents to be individuals of holistic integrity who realize their personal responsibility and social obligations. (reference)
Christopher Newport University
Christopher Newport University Residence Life cultivates an environment for students to develop an orientation toward the common good. We will provide opportunities for students to gain personal identity awareness, build positive relationships with others, and define their role within the community. In so doing, students will begin to take action towards success and contribute to make a difference. (reference)
East Tennessee State University
As a result of living in our campus residence halls and apartments, students engage in communities that support their academic, social, and personal development. (reference)
As Residence Life we commit to create environments in alignment with the Institute’s values by facilitating purposeful opportunities for students to live, learn, work, and play, which will motivate students to serve as Georgia Tech leaders in society. The residential experience provides a powerful laboratory where students can grow in the areas of community involvement, professional development, global civility, and personal development. (reference)
Indiana State University
Residential Life prepares students to assume responsibility for their individual experience and to actively engage in their community. (reference)
Our over-arching educational priority is that students will understand their individual responsibility to work towards just and equitable local, national, and global societies. (reference)
Our educational priority is to enable residents to become citizen leaders and students as engaged scholars within their community. (reference)
Montclair State University
Our educational priority in the Office of Residence Life is to engage students through their holistic development as they transition from Montclair State University community members to global citizens through quality services, resources, and experiences. (reference)
Pennsylvania State University
Our Educational Priority is to enable residents to develop respect and responsibility for themselves and their communities. We strive to create dynamic learning communities where students have the opportunity to explore their identities and system of beliefs, connect their experiences alongside those of others, and build the skills necessary to become involved members of the Penn State community and society at large. (reference)
The educational priority of our office is to promote global citizenship. Global Citizenship is defined as becoming an engaged and responsible member of your community through the knowledge of self and how one’s actions impacts others and the campus, local, national and global community. (reference)
Saint Louis University
At the culmination of the residential experience, students will be holistically formed, critically reflective, and socially and personally responsible. (reference)
San Jose State University
Residential Life seeks to facilitate the development of Spartan Strong residents. We define a Spartan Strong resident as one that develops meaning points of connection to SJSU, is invested in the safety and security of themselves and others, is actively involved in the development of inclusive communities and takes pride in being a SJSU Spartan. (reference)
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
University Housing fosters an environment that promotes opportunities for students to become civically, socially, and academically responsible individuals who are engaged members of their current and future communities. (reference)
The educational priority of our Residential Curriculum is to complement the academic curriculum with a residential curriculum that encourages the pursuit of the Stevenson Way. (reference)
Texas A&M University Galveston
Upon completion of their on-campus residential requirement, our students will be proficient in skills that will make them successful in their careers, be engaged citizens and responsible members of the Aggie community worldwide. (reference)
University of Colorado Colorado Springs
Community members will be independent citizens exploring healthy, life-enriching opportunities in a supportive and respectful living environment. (reference)
University of Dayton
Community living at the University of Dayton offers a unique opportunity to integrate your curricular learning within a rich living environment. You will experience a challenging and supportive campus climate enriched by dialogue that cultivates quality relationships with individuals of diverse backgrounds, guides your self-discovery and purpose, and prepares you for a lifetime of learning and service in and for your community. Housing and Residence Life will create quality learning and living communities in a variety of residential facilities to help you reach your full potential. In these communities you will have opportunities to learn, live, grow, lead and serve. (reference)
The University of Mississippi
Through transformational and purposeful experiences, students living in residential communities at the University of Mississippi will become engaged scholars and responsible citizens. (reference)
University of Mary Washington
Realize Responsibility for Self, Community, and World. (reference)
University of South Florida
At the conclusion of the residential experience, residents will be global citizens who are academically, socially, culturally, and personally responsible. (reference)
The principal educational priority of Residence Life at York University is that students will recognize the value of the individual and their responsibility in contributing to the growth and betterment of society both locally and globally. (reference)
This post originally appeared on the Roompact On Duty Blog. Roompact is the creator of residential education software for colleges and universities that allows housing and residence life programs to track their educational efforts and make their administrative work more efficient. As the Director of Curriculum, Training, and Research for Roompact, I frequently contribute to the blog and occasionally cross-post my articles here.