In spring 2018, the Office of the Dean of Students (DOS) convened a group of campus and community partners to begin discussing the issue of homelessness among college students. Campus partners, specifically within University Housing & Dining, shared insight regarding programs and services they learned about across the country and through the Hope Center. Once the concern was better understood, a cohort of incoming and current students who had self-disclosed experiencing homelessness through the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) was identified to start determining options for increasing support and access to basic need items. Additional students were identified through personal correspondence with Admissions staff members or secondary school staff members.
DOS was fortunate to have Aralia Ramirez, a graduating Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) graduate student, complete her capstone project on shelter and food insecurity among college students. Thanks to her dedication, DOS was able to collect significant research, generate benchmarking data with our peer institutions, and identify best practices for implementation at the University of Iowa. To ensure prospective students had a direct connection to a staff member at the University, a personalized message was sent to those who self-identified as homeless. The personalized communication addressed the student’s unique financial circumstances and contained a helpful guide with specific University and community resources to address need-based concerns. As summer orientation approached, the team arranged for the identified students to meet and have lunch with current UI students who experienced similar circumstances. This served as an opportunity for incoming students to meet others and learn from current UI students who have navigated similar experiences.
As the committee continues to look ahead, it will adjust its mission to address other areas of basic needs insecurity among our students. The Office of the Dean of Students is incredibly grateful to the work of partners including, the Office of Admissions, Office of Student Financial Aid, Academic Support and Retention, New Student Services, Center for Diversity and Enrichment, Student Wellness, Center for Student Involvement & Leadership, University Housing & Dining, Iowa City Community Schools, United Action for Youth, faculty members, additional community partners, and our student representatives.