Category Archives: Residence Life

What is Your Programming GPA? (***free handout***)


Planning and attending programs and activities is typically the most fun part of a student affairs professional’s year. Successful programming is not only a skill, but an art. However, we need to be able to teach our programming standards to our full-time and student staffers so they understand what is and what is NOT an excellent program. Unfortunately programming expectations can be very nebulous, subjective, and many times concentrate on quantity rather than quality.

In order to better define the standards programming for my own student staff, I developed a simple, one-page Programming Rubric. Simply stated, a rubric is a written set of criteria for which a task is measured against. Rubrics are typically used by K-12 teacher and professors in the classroom in order to set the standards for how an essay, research paper, presentation, or other assignment will be graded.

The rubric includes a rating of Excellent, Good, Average, and Poor for five areas, including Pre-Planning, Marketing, Finances, Evaluation, and Overall Assessment. There is also a section for comments specific to the actual program being evaluated. Each rating has a numerical value attached to it so you can evaluate a program by creating a programming grade point average (GPA). Given there are five areas of evaluation, including the overall assessment, the points will range from a minimum of five to a maximum of 20. After adding each area together, you divide by five in order to get the program GPA. A programming GPA is a great standard for students because they can relate to it very easily, is easy for them to conceptualize, and offers you the opportunity to discuss results during one-on-one’s and semesterly and / or annual evaluations.

As a specific example, imagine you have a resident assistant who plans a resume writing workshop in which she invites an employee from career services to speak and offer tips. The RA discusses the program with you ahead of time and gets the proper consent as well as advice on how to improve the program. She advertises only using Facebook and spends $75.00 on pizza. Unfortunately, only five students attend the program, and there is little follow up of regarding student feedback and / or learning outcomes assessment. Using the rubic, you give a grading of “Good” (3.0) for Pre-Planning, “Poor” (1.0) for Marketing, “Average” (2.0) for Finances, “Average” (2.0) for Evaluation, and “Average” (2.0) for Overall Assessment. Adding these together, you get a score of 10 points. Divide that by five (for the five areas of assessment), and she earns an “Average” (2.0) GPA for the program.

Download the free Programming Rubric handout to help assess your programming. Feel free to utilize the rubric as a template that you can edit in order to create an appropriate tool for your own department and staffing needs.

Drunk Pumpkin Creates Alcohol Poisoning Awareness

Puking pumpkin for alcohol poisoning awareness.

Who knew that a pumpkin, a few safety pins, old newspapers, and some old clothes could create awareness about the signs of alcohol poisoning. That’s exactly what my staff and I used to create a “drunk pumpkin” outside of our office.

We partnered with our campus’s Alcohol & Other Drugs (AOD) education program along with student peer educators to host a table in which AOD information and promotional materials were available. Students could visit the table and take guesses at how many candy corn pieces and Tootsie Rolls were in two different jars. The two students who guess the correct number of pieces of candy (or closest to the correct amount) will win plastic buckets of Halloween goodies, including new scary movie DVD’s.

Developing this program was very easy and cost-effective. The pumpkin cost approximately $9.00, and the prizes were about $40.00 for the two DVD’s and the various candy and goodies to fill the plastic Halloween buckets. The program could even be planned without having a prize contest if your budget is limited. The clothes were stuffed with old newspapers and safety pinned together so the body could be moved without falling apart.

Facts about alcohol poisoning to include in your program can be found at, which includes the following:

Critical Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness

This is an effective and cost-effective educational program that creates a lot of buzz among students. We had a lot of fun putting it together and encourage you to create a “drunk pumpkin” on your campus! Have a safe and Happy Halloween!