SOAR/Library Partnership

Every year, the SOAR (new student orientation) program at UW-Madison sees more than 15,000 people over the course of the summer. More than 7,000 of those people are incoming students who spend a large portion of their time at SOAR working with academic advisors to create their first-semester course schedules.

Electrical power being added to the floor in College Library as part of our infrastructure improvements. While the SOAR program had been making temporary infrastructure changes for years, the changes made to College Library were permanent changes that could benefit students during summer SOAR sessions and the academic year.

Because of the sheer size of the program, the complex needs of the space, and competing campus interests, SOAR was constantly on the move. Each summer (2014, 2015, 2016), I was charged with relocating the advising portions of the program to new buildings on campus. This instability meant huge costs: staff time, furniture and moving costs (in 2015, SOAR temporarily relocated more than 2,370 pieces of furniture), new signage, technological hardware purchases, and much more. Additionally, none of the spaces were well-equipped to handle that kind of traffic, and SOAR was regularly hitting infrastructure limits on wifi, power, and wireless printing for the more than 400 laptops students used during the program–not to mention environmental challenges like summer campus construction, non-air-conditioned buildings, and competition from other entities like summer courses or labs.

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Final room layout for School of Business advising. Compare the final product to our initial layout plan (below).

Then, in fall 2016–thanks to the persistence of the Dean of Students and the generosity of the Vice Provost for Libraries–the announcement was made that SOAR advising would finally have a home.

Planning for this project was extensive. I met with the Director and Assistant Director of College Library, the Technology Services Coordinator, and the Computer and Media Center Technology Operations staff weekly throughout the entire academic year, in addition to individual meetings with representatives from each of the 11 advising groups, discussions with Facilities Planning and Management staff, training with advising staff across campus, etc. Our work ranged from broad discussions about the nature of a dual-use space (the library would remain open to the public in the evening and in non-SOAR spaces) to the minutiae of how to secure laptops, how to make printing work within the library’s existing infrastructure, what training was needed for staff, and how many chairs were needed at each advising station.

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Final room layout for Letters & Sciences advising. Compare this layout to our initial Letters & Sciences room plan (below).

I am grateful for the partnership we found in the library; the staff I worked with throughout the planning stages were knowledgeable, engaged, flexible, and unruffled by the scope of the undertaking. Since we have moved into the space, the staff has also been incredibly helpful, supportive, and welcoming–both to SOAR staff and advisors and to the hundreds of students who come through their doors each morning. It has been wonderful to see our work finally coming together!

Additional information about the above images: