Student Life director enjoys job, working with students
Student Life at Parkland College is a major part of the career of a Parkland student. It runs or plays a role in most everything in the non-strictly-academic lives of students, from photo ID cards to the fleet of six mini-buses that transport student athletic teams, clubs, and organizations that have to travel long distances to important events.
It coordinates the Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) program, leadership programs, student government. It works with Phi Theta Kappa and houses the Wellness Center. It can help Parkland students find housing, and also hosts joint programs with Parkland athletics.
The many facets of Student Life are directed by Tom Caulfield, and have been since 1998.
Caulfield says “the work he enjoys most [at Student Life] is development work with different student groups.”
He started on his current career path when someone asked him to apply to be a resident advisor when he was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois.
Caulfield found that he was good at dealing with “a lot of nonsense” that an RA finds in an undergraduate dorm. He says the students in his dorm found him a “good leader” and a “good role model.”
He continued being an RA during his graduate career at Eastern Illinois University and Northern Illinois University. He worked at the U of I for 10 years before coming to Parkland.
Caulfield is proud of the community services projects of Student Life.
One of these community projects that he remembers fondly is the Uganda Project in the mid-2000’s. Parkland students that took part in the project were able to refurbish 36 used Parkland computers to donate to an orphanage in Uganda. Caulfield says the orphanage was very appreciative of the donation.
Caulfield says that taking part in the Uganda Project was an event he “would remember for his lifetime.”
He is also proud of Parkland’s community services projects with the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, the United Way, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, Hurricane Relief in New Orleans, dental hygiene in Western India and other past and present projects.
He also takes pride in a grant that Student Life received three years ago to increase the retention of Latino and Latina students from school year to school year.
According to Caulfield, before this grant was put into place the Latino and Latina student population had the lowest retention rate of any student population of Parkland.
The grant created a mentoring program for these students “that got them involved or engaged with the College,” Caulfield said.
Since the grant was put into place, the persistent rate of Latino and Latina retention from academic year-to-year has doubled. Caulfield hopes to expand the mentoring program to other Parkland populations with low persistent retention rates.
The biggest change that Caulfield has seen as head of Student Life is a physical one; the current Student Life area has a lot more space than its previous location. The old department was very spread out; he says in its current layout, he can see all the parts of the department.
With the current status of the Illinois budget and the seemingly ever more constricted flow of money into state-funded colleges like Parkland, Caulfield—who as director manages Student Life’s budget—says he is concerned that Student Life may be forced to whittle down or outright cut programs.
He says Student Life receives most of its funding from the Student Life fee included as part of tuition costs. As enrollment is in a downward trend at Parkland—and the college itself sees less money from Springfield—there is consequently less money flowing into Student Life’s operational coffers.
However, Student Life is operational and perhaps even thriving despite budgetary concerns, and there’s a multitude of programs, clubs, and even jobs available in the student-oriented department for Cobras to enhance their Parkland experience and get more involved with their college’s community.