Creating the best possible living experience for WUSTL students

Campus Life offices reorganize with goal of connecting students to the university

The mission of Campus Life at Washington University in St. Louis, as outlined in the Strategic Plan for Excellence in the Undergraduate Experience, is to “build and sustain an undergraduate experience of exceptional quality, where students, known by name and story, prepare themselves for lives of purpose and meaning.”

At WUSTL, Campus Life comprises three areas: Community Service Office, Danforth University Center & Event Management, and Student Involvement and Leadership.

The last area, Student Involvement and Leadership, was formerly known as the Office of Student Activities. It has undergone a recent reorganization aimed at helping students more fully engage in the undergraduate experience at the university.

“During the past few years, we’ve started to think more broadly about what is meant by student engagement and the fact that we want all of our students to be strongly connected with the institution,” says Jill E. Carnaghi, PhD, associate vice chancellor for students and dean of Campus Life.

“When I think about campus life and how it fits into the overall undergraduate experience, our goal is to assist students in their transition into the institution and help them fully engage in the intellectual and social life of the community,” Carnaghi says.

To that end, several key staffing changes have taken place recently.

Mike Hayes was hired in summer 2009 as executive director of Campus Life. He, along with Stephanie Kurtzman, director of the Community Service Office and associate director of the Richard A. Gephardt Institute for Public Service, and Leslie Heusted, director of the Danforth University Center & Event Management, comprise the Campus Life leadership team.

Naomi Daradar Sigg was promoted to assistant director of student involvement and leadership and works closely with many multicultural student organizations and with the group Redefining Community Experience (RCE).

Mary Zabriskie was reclassified as assistant director of Campus Life, working closely with several programs, including First 40-Freshman Initiative and StEP, the Student Entrepreneurial Program.

Summer 2010 hires include Saida Bonifield as coordinator for LGBT Student Involvement and Leadership, and Shiloh Venable and Alison Myers as coordinators in the Community Service Office of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service.

“I think we really have the right staff in place to look at how we advance our work as a collective entity,” Carnaghi says.

“A student’s primary objective is to leave here with an academic degree,” she says. “Hopefully, we can provide a culture and environment where it’s easy to get involved and where students are what create and make campus life.”

Student Involvement and Leadership helps students achieve a cohesive co-curricular experience and helps students connect the dots between multiple leadership opportunities on campus.

The Leadership Initiative, nearly two years in development by a large number of campus partners, outlines a series of principles and outcomes around a common definition of leadership. It aims to provide students a framework, a comprehensive set of tangible skills, and language to discuss what they have learned about themselves and leadership through their co-curricular involvement.

The Community Service Office serves both undergraduates and graduate students in their co-curricular involvement in community service, as part of the Gephardt Institute’s efforts to advance civic engagement across the university.

Key initiatives include programs serving kindergarten through high school students (Service First, Each One Teach One, and K-12 Connections), training and advising to support student leadership of community service, philanthropy programs, service trips and Social Change Grants, as well as university-wide initiatives such as quarterly blood drives and the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award.

The mission of the William H. and Elizabeth Gray Danforth University Center — popularly known on campus as the DUC — is to offer each member of the WUSTL community a “place” on campus with an enticing environment to work, relax, and gather.

Over the last 28 months, the DUC has become a fixture in the daily life of the Washington University community by serving as a crossroads to campus traffic.

The Danforth University Center & Event Management team strives to assist in the reserving and utilizing the building and all premier spaces on campus to fit the needs of each person, department or office. Its new website is

“Through all of these programs and initiatives, we are trying to get across the idea that being a student here is not a spectator sport,” Carnaghi says. “We want you involved and engaged. We’ll be respectful, but we’re going to push you to take part.”