Three off-campus roommates at UW-Stout were enjoying a late morning chat on their porch recently, winding down before the rush of the start of the school year.
They were surprised by unexpected visitors from the university at their front door, bearing “Welcome Back” bags – Chancellor Katherine Frank and Provost Glendalí Rodríguez.
Frank and Rodríguez were among 20 faculty and staff volunteering for Knock and Talk, an initiative to welcome off-campus students back for the school year, which started Sept. 7.
“Knock and Talk is a chance for us to connect with students before school starts and remind them of Stout’s values. It’s a way for us to encourage them to make responsible decisions in a positive way,” Frank said.
Volunteers met with nearly 700 students in 250 homes in neighborhoods around campus, covering about 50 city blocks near downtown Menomonie.
They handed out the reusable bags, which included flyers about campus resources, like Student Health Services, the Counseling Center and Stout Student Association; and Menomonie service agencies, like Bridge to Hope and Arbor Place. The bags also included information about city and campus policies and voting, along with coupons and small gifts from local businesses.
The roommates – Eli Dupslaff, a senior in graphic communications from Harris, Minn.; Hannah Hinker, a packaging senior from Greenwood; and Taylor Schmidt, of Greenville, who’s beginning her master’s in school psychology; along with neighbor Rieko Seki, a food science and technology third-year international student from Japan – feel anxious, knowing it will be a tough semester.
“It’s nice that faculty and staff make an effort to be out and about in the community, interacting and showing support and care for off-campus students,” Hinker said.
Schmidt, who has an undergraduate degree in human development and family studies from UW-Stout, agreed.
“The welcome bags are full of helpful reminders – on-campus resources that you learn about during first-year orientation, but that you forget about. And the community changes often, so you can learn about new available off-campus resources too,” she said.
Assistant Dean of Students Nate Kirkman, who coordinated the event, isn’t aware of another UW System school that offers the same door-to-door initiative. He believes UW-Stout is unique in that the off-campus student neighborhoods are located right next to campus.
Rodríguez and Kirkman want off-campus students to know they are still a part of the campus community.
The initiative has been an annual event since 2016. In 2020, Knock and Talk was moved to Johnson Fieldhouse because of the pandemic, inviting students to visit and pick up welcome bags that included masks and thermometers.
Knock and Talk is sponsored by the Dean of Students office, the Chancellor’s Coalition on Drugs and Alcohol, University Counseling Center, Stout Student Association, Student Health Services, Memorial Student Center, the Office of Safety and Risk Management and University Police.