By Alyssia Gilchrist-McPherson
As the associate dean of students, Stephen J. Rice educates and advocates for Cal State Dominguez Hills students.
As the recently appointed interim university housing director, he will be able to work more closely with the students he serves.
With an extensive background in student housing, it was without hesitation that he accepted his new position.
Rice has served in the university housing realm for over 11 years at colleges that include UC Santa Barbara, UCLA and Loyola Marymount University.
This year, he said he wants to create a sense of community for student residents and increase student engagement.
He, along with the housing staff, is working on different programs to implement in the beginning of the semester.
“Research shows that the first six weeks [of school] are the most critical time,” Rice said about reaching freshmen. “If you don’t make a connection within the first six weeks, a lot of the time they end up going home.”
He expressed one consistent problem within the housing community: roommate conflicts and disagreements. To prevent and reduce conflicts, he plans to increase the number of resident assistants, or R.A.s, from 12 to 16.
The hope is that will help student residents build trust in the resident assistants, whom they can rely on to help solve their problems.
“We increased our R.A.s this year to have better interaction with our students and less burnout,” Rice said. “We’re testing that out to see how that works, to see if it helps with the model, because in the past that connection wasn’t there.”
Rice, who will continue his duties as associate dean of students, hopes to also continue collaborating with the campus to create events and workshops to the benefit of student engagement.
To better support students in special populations, he plans to work with Gary Rhodes, associate dean of international education, to help with the placement of international students in housing.
He also plans to continue the goals of the previous housing director, Leah Schueler, by partnering with financial aid and the Toro Guardian Scholars program to help students who identify as being homeless and/or a foster youth receive housing.
“I’m really trying to talk with my staff to figure out what some of the needs are and how I can support them,” Rice said. “With that, looking at our facilities, [we’re] prioritizing what needs to be done first because we can’t pay for everything, and creating budgets to figure out maintenance-type things for our community.”
In November, university housing plans to present a workshop, “Save A Life Tour,” which promotes responsible and safe driving and features a texting and driving simulator.
There are also plans for constructing a new housing phase that will consist of “traditional student housing,” or dormitories. Rice refers to this project as “Phase 3,” which would expand upon the existing phases 1 and 2.
“We’re trying to save money because we are looking at Phase 3 soon,” Rice said. “We are looking at building some traditional halls and maybe a dining hall.”