Bill Zeller can honestly say he eats, sleeps and lives his work. A resident of Mesa Court since September, he is the first assistant vice chancellor of student housing who has opted to live in the freshman dorms. What better way to get acquainted with student life in action as he transitions to UCI from directing the University of Michigan’s mammoth housing system.
Word is that Zeller is fitting in well, practicing his Spanish skills with one of the resident advisors and borrowing a student’s longboard for his first skate on some of the gnarliest hills in Irvine.
Zeller likes the variety in his job, which encompasses student living, as well as residential maintenance, dining, education, financial concerns, and managing and motivating staff in the common purpose of “providing the highest quality residential experience for the 6,500 students living on campus.”
He is excited about UCI’s goals of expanding enrollment and housing capacity, and the desire to bring in more high-achieving students. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, Zeller has a master’s degree from Western Illinois University and a doctorate in higher education administration from Iowa State University. He sees himself primarily as an educator who has taken the adage “live and learn” to heart. Influenced by national trends in education and his own research in academic living environments, Zeller believes in a living-learning concept that connects activities in and out of the classroom. “Bringing education to the residence halls capitalizes on students’ endless curiosity, enhances social life and makes the educational experience more fun,” says Zeller.
UCI already encourages this living-learning concept through theme houses featuring activities for students with similar interests, as well as faculty guest speakers, leadership training, workshops, lectures, films and mixers in many of the dorms.
“Bill has a national reputation in his field and the expertise to take UCI to the next stage in developing our living-learning programs,” says Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Manuel Gómez. “His initiatives will help our students move more successfully through each phase of their university experience.”
Zeller envisions that, with completion of the housing projects now under construction, more than 10,000 students could be housed on campus, getting UCI a lot closer to the ultimate goal of accommodating 50 percent of its students. Ideally, that would include first- and second-year students, and all graduate students. Currently, between 25 and 30 percent of students live on campus.
UCI’s growth could also forge a new identity for the campus as a residential, self-contained community where students live, eat, study, work and have an active social life, he explains. “We’re building now for the next 30 years, and I’m thrilled to be part of a university committed to balance and quality in the student experience as we grow.”