Thousands of new students make their way to the University of Wisconsin–Madison each summer, preparing for their first semester on campus. What better way to introduce them to the wealth of campus resources than to welcome them to one of the very buildings they will likely spend a great deal of time in: College Library.
A new partnership between the Division of Student Life, Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR), and the General Library System means SOAR’s advising sessions will have a permanent home in College Library, beginning summer 2017. SOAR, which mainly operates in Union South, holds sessions for incoming students primarily June through August. SOAR’s focus is to help students learn about campus resources, meet with acade
mic advisors, discuss campus life, and enroll in fall-semester courses.
“SOAR advising’s permanent location within College Library provides a wonderful sense of stability to a key program for new students,” said Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “This collaboration allows our campus to showcase the resources and possibilities available that students can immediately leverage for their success.”
In the 1980s SOAR advising was housed in “old” Union South. Once the space was demolished in 2009 and rebuilt, SOAR’s overall efforts continued to operate out of the “new” Union South. However, the advising sessions had to find temporary locations each year due to the revitalization of the building and reconfiguration of meeting spaces. This displaced the advising components of the program to classroom buildings like Engineering Hall, Biochemistry, Van Vleck, and Social Sciences. The lack of a permanent area left SOAR advising, which requires approximately 20,000 square feet of space, struggling to accommodate the growing incoming class numbers, while competing for campus space as summer programming and construction increased.
“Since the razing of the ‘old’ Union South, SOAR has struggled to find more than temporary academic advising space,” said Carren Martin, Director of the Center for the First-Year Experience. “Locating the program in a new facility every year or two was logistically challenging and an inefficient use of human and financial resources.”
After a campus-wide search, College Library offered the best opportunity for SOAR advising long-term.
“SOAR is a highly visible entry point for new students and their parents,” said George Watson, who serves as a project guide from the Office of Quality Improvement. “This new home for SOAR advising results in a win/win outcome.”
Modifications to College Library will include upgrades and reconfigurations to quiet study areas, the café, and spaces used by WisCEL. The addition of multipurpose furniture, outlets, as well as improvements to the existing technology, and overall infrastructures will be made to meet SOAR’s needs. The changes also offer improvements that will be available to all students throughout the year, while creating significant long-term cost savings for the Center for First-Year Experience by not requiring SOAR advising to repurpose classroom spaces every year.
“The partnership with College Library is much more than a transactional use of space,” Martin said. “We share similar goals of new student success, and it’s a great opportunity to introduce new students to resources (the physical space and the Library staff) that will be important to them throughout their academic career here at UW–Madison.”
While College Library is a heavily trafficked location throughout the school year, its slower summer period creates additional space availabilities, forming an ideal setting for SOAR.
“We’re thrilled to welcome SOAR into College Library,” said Vice Provost for Libraries and University Librarian Ed Van Gemert. “We recognize this partnership is an investment by campus to improve shared-space opportunities, offer students the highest quality services, and create unique collaborative partnerships across campus.”
Adds Director of College Library Carrie Kruse, “This is a chance to take spaces that are quiet during the summer and maximize their use for high-priority campus needs. We look forward to seeing the library full of students year-round and not just during the busy fall and spring semesters. College Library is also excited about having every incoming student get a chance to experience the library space as part of their introduction to campus.”
The Center for First Year Experience, which coordinates SOAR, the Wisconsin Unions, and the Libraries have long partnered through participation in Wisconsin Welcome events, resource fairs, and Wisconsin Experience Seminars. While SOAR advising required a move to meet its changing needs, the partnership with the Wisconsin Union will continue, as SOAR’s “home base” remains in Union South. Creating a coordinated and centralized advising location on a decentralized campus will help advisors collaborate as a community, and offer students easy, in-person access to advisors without traveling across campus.
“While our partnership with the Libraries isn’t new, it’s important to note the permanence of the advising portion of SOAR being housed in one location, the Libraries, and the positive impact that will have on our incoming students,” explains Lori Berquam, Dean of Students and Vice Provost for the Division of Student Life. “Allowing new students to become familiar with the Libraries during SOAR and before they get to campus, is an example of using existing resources and ongoing partnerships to help make our campus seem smaller to incoming students.”
First phase modifications and construction will begin early in 2017 to prepare for the summer 2017 sessions. Long-term renovations, expected over a three-year period, will also include upgraded restroom areas. Further updates on this partnership and its progress will be made later this spring.