Life and Learning

Student Life Creating New Experiences

Two students wearing sorority shirts.

Like a kaleidoscope, the look and feel of campus life at IUPUI is constantly—and rapidly—changing.

Every day, there are new student organizations, new social and cultural programs, and new opportunities for growth and development for the 30,000-plus students who have found an academic home in the heart of Indianapolis.

Overseeing it all is Vice Chancellor Zebulun Davenport and his Division of Student Life management team, who are determined to create a vibrant college experience for IUPUI students that takes full advantage of a major urban hub of economic, social, entrepreneurial, and cultural activity.

Davenport, who has been at IUPUI since the spring of 2011, says it’s an exciting time to be part of the growth of Indiana University’s major urban campus. “So much is happening here right now, in our city and on our campus, and that gives us (Student Life) a chance to create something special for our students,” he says.

All of Student Life’s departments are part of the evolution of life on campus for IUPUI students. But four of them (Student Involvement, directed by Chad Ahren; Campus Recreation, led by Matt Rota-Autry; Educational Partnerships and Student Advocacy, directed by Amy Wylie; and Housing and Residence Life, led by Aaron Hart) represent significant changes for students.

IUPUI student in regatta sunglasses.

University Place is being turned into on-campus housing for more than 500 freshmen (see inside back cover). Campus Recreation opportunities continue to grow rapidly. Student Involvement is adding new organizations and programs. And Student Life’s newest unit, Educational Partnerships and Student Advocacy, is breaking new ground for students and their families.

“The more opportunities we create for students to develop themselves, the more they want to get involved, to engage with each other,” says the vice chancellor.

All of Student Life’s core directors have embraced Davenport’s primary goal: to consider themselves educators. “Only our classrooms and laboratories are different kinds of spaces,” Davenport says. “Campus life helps students develop leadership skills, encourages critical thinking skills and self-discovery, and stimulates social and cultural awareness. It’s part of the total development of each student.”

The Student Life leaders all expect the new housing in The Tower (the temporary name for the former hotel) to bring major changes.

“When you’re adding 560 students to the heart of campus, it’s nothing but good from our perspective,” says Hart. “We’ll have more activity at the Campus Center, growth in retail sales there, growth in student activities, and an increase in school spirit.”

Ahren also thinks the additional 560-plus freshman living in the heart of campus will encourage the “explosive growth in Greek life” at IUPUI. Since 2008, he notes, fraternity and sorority membership has increased by more than 300 percent. What makes Ahren even happier is the way students are managing their chapters.

“Greek life provides an environment for learning,” Ahren says. “Our students learn how to relate to one another and to other organizations, to overcome obstacles, to collaborate in achieving goals, and to deal with a wide range of stakeholders.”

IUPUI student regatta

Rapid growth is also shaping a bright future for campus recreation, according to Rota-Autry. A recent reduction in student recreation fees launched a rapid rise in participation, nearly tripling the number of students involved.

“We’re still offering the same intramural sports, we have been, but now we’re able to expand to new sports and activities that are drawing interest,” says the recreation director, who also is encouraged by flourishing workout programs. “Students are focusing more on improving their health, working out longer and more often.”

Educational Partnerships and Student Advocacy is expanding IUPUI’s horizons in off-campus services, and parent-and-family programs. EPSA provides parents and other family members with resources that help their students remain in school and reach their academic goals.

“We want to give parents and family members the tools they need to step up when their children encounter difficulties,” Wylie says. “We know that parents want to be involved, and to feel they’re part of IUPUI.” That will foster long-term relationships that can deepen existing relationships, but also help turn parents and IUPUI graduates into future sources of support. Early returns are encouraging, with more than 1,700 people signed up to be part of the effort.

For Davenport, the goal is clear. “We want to create the space, and allow the students to do what they do inside the space,” he says.