Dons participate in American exchange

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(Graphic by Taylor Gayowsky)

Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) have an important connection to Wilfrid Laurier University — a tie that many students may be unaware of.

This is the fourth year that Wake Forest, and the third year that UNC, are participating in a don exchange program with WLU.

The exchange involves Residence Life dons from Laurier and Resident Advisors (RAs) from the American institutions visiting each other’s campuses in order to learn about the programming each has to offer for students living in residence.

Laurier hosted its half of the exchange from Oct. 17 to the 21, inviting both institutions to visit its Waterloo campus. Four people from UNC, as well as three people from Wake Forest, participated in the exchange.

“We basically structured a schedule that wove in elements about studying in a Canadian institution that was publically funded,” explained David Shorey, associate director of residence education.

“There’s definitely a cultural exchange to it as well about being a student on this campus.”

The visiting RAs stayed with the five Laurier dons who were accepted for the exchange. This gave them the opportunity to learn about what Residence Life and Residence Education at Laurier provide for students.

The dons from Laurier will be travelling to North Carolina for the second half of the exchange from Nov. 1 to the 4th.

“We’re going to send a professional staff member to each institution as well as three dons to UNC and two to Wake Forest,” said Shorey. “And they’re going to be doing much the same.”

Part of the exchange will expose the dons to the programming which Wake Forest and UNC implement.         There will also be a cultural component where the dons will attend a football or basketball game.

Fall break aligned with the exchange for the RAs from North Carolina, allowing them to visit Laurier without missing any classes. However, when the Laurier dons visit Wake Forest and UNC they will miss class.

Shorey commented on the fact that the Laurier dons will be leaving their floors unattended during this period.

“For us, I think it speaks for our program quite a bit, that we have a supportive work environment,” he said. “So while these dons are gone for a couple days … other dons are going to be in the communities, supporting students just the same.”

Benjamin Cuff, a fifth-year WLU student, is a don in MacDonald House who is participating in this year’s exchange.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I can’t wait to see John [an RA from Wake Forest] and the other delegates that we met, learn more about Wake Forest and see their campus and what their student life is like in comparison to Laurier.”

As this is Cuff’s third year donning at Laurier, he reflected on the reason why he chose his fifth-year to apply for the exchange.

“I’ve grown a great appreciation for what the role is all about,” he said. “The idea of being an influential role for students – it’s something that’s a big deal for me.”

Cuff has had over 100 students since he began donning and explained that he hopes to gain a greater perspective of the role in general.

According to Shorey, because of the success of the exchange program, there is a possibility in the future that the program will be extended to include other universities in Ontario.

“This exchange, I think, will continue because it’s mutually beneficial,” he said.

“We’re not just learning from them, but I think they’re learning from us and it’s serving as a reminder to us about how special our program is.”

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