Spring 2019

All Issues

I’m adjusting to being on my own for the first time.

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I feel really supported here.

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I’m a little homesick and I miss my dog.

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I really like the small classes—I know my professors and they know me.

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I’m so excited I made the dance team.

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How

are

you?

Through Villanova’s House Call program, faculty and staff volunteers start conversations with first-year students.

BY MARIAN BUTCHER

How are you?” “I’m fine.” Many times, that’s where the conversation ends. Except, what if that’s just the beginning? Not just of a conversation, but of the whole experience of being a Villanovan and cared for by this community?

Every September, over the course of one evening, more than 100 Villanova faculty and staff volunteers visit every first-year student in the campus residence halls. The task is simple: to ask every student they meet, “How are you?,” and really listen to what they have to say. We check in on each other, a simple gesture that starts with one small question that’s no longer a platitude, but an act of caring.

The program is called House Call, and it was started at Villanova 17 years ago as a Student Life initiative and brought to life by Paul Pugh, former dean of students, and the Office for Residence Life. A version of the program is also offered for commuter students, who are invited to a luncheon at the start of the year.

Hopefully everything is fine, even great—they love their classes; they feel at home on campus; they’re making tons of friends. But maybe there have been some challenges, ones you’d expect from young adults going through a major transition in their lives: they miss home; they’re still adjusting to new surroundings; they feel a bit overwhelmed by all the new people and experiences.

There is a practical component to House Call—staff members can follow up immediately about any concerns expressed that evening, whether it’s an emotional support that needs to be extended or a facilities issue that needs to be addressed. But the main purpose is deeply personal, to show first-year students that there is an entire community supporting them, willing to knock on their door, just to make sure they’re OK and thriving. The program is the embodiment of what it means to be Augustinian, to live and learn in community and to be present for one another in a personal and intentional way.

House Calls provides a moment of connection in the rush of a student’s first weeks here. And with more than 96 percent of first-year students returning to Villanova for their sophomore year—a rate well above the national average—that one evening may contribute to the larger feeling of belonging that is the hallmark of the Villanova community. ◼︎

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