Living and earning: students choose on-campus housing for the experience

By Jenna Mytton

For over 150 yearsthe University of Wisconsin–Madison has operated as the flagship university of this institution. Almost immediately after the founding, students have been calling university “home.”

In a city like Madison, there is much to choose from in terms of housing–flats on Breese Terrace, apartments on University Avenue and townhouses in the Park-Regent neighborhood. While property is consistently changing, one option remains longlasting: on-campus University Housing.

UW-Madison has housed students since 1851, when North Hall was built. Over the years, the Division of University Housing has developed a living-learning experience that contributes to the Wisconsin Idea.

Students move into a residence hall in the Lakeshore community.

Currently, UW-Madison doesn’t require students to live on campus for their first year, but 90 percent of incoming students live in 19 residence halls across campus, amounting to about 7,400 residents a year.

Tess Lo, a junior and current resident in University Housing, explained why on-campus housing appeals to her, and how it helped her grow as a student.

“I think it’s good because University Housing is students only and all of the services, programs and events are catered to students and benefitting their experience and academic performance,” Lo said. “This is particularly true with learning communities, like the one that I was in.”

As an international student not having stepped foot in Wisconsin until 2014, Lo chose to live in on-campus housing for convenience.

“When you’re finding and setting up housing, it’s a lot easier to go through the university rather than try to contact different property managers. With University Housing, they have pictures and information online and it was easier to talk to them,” Lo said.

Lo has lived in University Housing for nearly three years, and plans to return for her senior year. She spent two years living in Chadbourne Residential College. For junior year though, she decided to give Ogg Residence Hall a chance, where she is also planning to return next year.

Residents attend an event at Sellery Hall.

“The experiences aren’t something you wouldn’t get living off campus,” she said.

University Housing works to ensure the student experience is met, according to Phillip Werman, a Residence Life Coordinator.

“The biggest thing we do is making sure that our residents know that we are here to support them and letting them know that it’s okay to ask for help and to ask questions. There are people here for them,” Werman said. “We want to help them achieve their goals in whatever way.”

Werman has worked for University Housing for nearly eight years. He worked in Lakeshore in the Tripp, Adams and Slichter communities before moving to the Ogg, Merit and Davis community in the Southeast neighborhood.

Residence Life Coordinators are live-in housing professionals who support students academically and socially. They are responsible for overseeing House Fellows and programming staff. They also work to support students, often through conduct meetings.

Another opportunity for students is the chance for leadership and involvement, either through programs or employment opportunities.

Lo has been able to work in the resource center as a staff member, and as an administrative assistant in the office at Chadbourne Residential College. Not only does she feel support as a resident, but as an employee as well.

“I feel supported a lot of times just when I have daily chats with other student staff members, my House Fellow or even the custodian. It’s nice to have familiar faces that you can get to know, and they make sure to support you,” Lo said.

“My goal is letting students know that I am here to support them, and that can be hard when I’m meeting with a student for discipline. I care about their success and I want them to be successful. Ultimately, I want them to know that I’m here to help in anyway possible,” Werman said.

Other services that support students are in-unit Cross College Advising Offices, tutoring in residence halls and dining facilities and hundreds of free social events and programs. University Housing works closely with other campus partners to create a unique experience for residents.

Even with exclusive programs and social events, on-campus housing faces stiff competition in the large off-campus market. However, University Housing uses tools to make sure they are catering to students needs. Currently, the biggest project is renovating Witte Hall, which is set to start this summer.