Forget about dorm doldrums at other colleges and universities. West Virginia University’s innovative residential college is about to take the student life experience to a whole new level.
Imagine a coed residence hall where everyone knows your name, you get to go on weekend trips to New York and Washington D.C. , and one of your favorite professors is your neighbor.
What’s more, faculty members teach seminars on interesting topics such as Homer’s �€?Iliad�€? and students have access to a multimedia theater.
WVU ’s new residential college, given the green light Friday (June 2) by WVU ’s Board of Governors, provides an incredible opportunity for personal growth and intellectual development, said David Stewart, dean of students.
Students �€both freshmen and upperclassmen �€not only receive academic guidance from close faculty contacts; they also take part in social and cultural activities with resident faculty leaders, or RFLs, and fellow classmates.
WVU ’s residential college, part of the Student Affairs 2010 Strategic Plan, will be housed in the new residence hall that is opening this fall on the Evansdale campus and feature a diverse cross-section of students and faculty.
�€?Not only is this the first new residence hall since the late’60s, it’s going to be state of the art and offer an exciting WVU experience,�€? said Corey Farris, Housing and University Apartments director.
It will be known as Lincoln Hall after President Abraham Lincoln who signed the Land Grant Act and was U.S. president during the establishment of the state.
�€?The philosophy underlying the mission of the residential college is that students will be known individually, and the college will nurture intellectual curiosity,�€? Stewart explained.
Students will enjoy all the amenities of a modern residence hall �€a 50-seat theater (for small classes, musical and theatrical productions, and movies), high-speed Internet connections, study lounges and more �€while surrounding themselves with faculty fellows, resident tutors and associate members.
�€?We’ve been thinking about the residential college concept for a few years,�€? Stewart said. �€?Research suggests that students involved in these programs have high retention rates between 85 and 90 percent.�€?
He added, �€?What we want to do programmatically is to develop a sense of belonging with traditions and student input.�€?
Special programs and activities will include college teas, outdoor events, small library that may double as a computer room, student hall council, college clubs and societies, printed facebook with names and photos of members, newsletter, listserv and Web site.
The 10 faculty fellows will come from a mix of disciplines and teach freshman seminars on topics of their choice that will substitute for University 101, a required orientation course for first-year students.p.
For example, Patrick Conner, Eberly Centennial Professor in English and director of the WVU Press, is doing a seminar on Homer’s �€?Iliad,�€? and Dan Weiner, director of the Office of International Programs and professor of geography, is planning one on global issues.
The goal of the freshman seminar is to foster a close academic and personal connection between students and faculty, an experience that is sometimes lacking in large classes, said Sven Verlinden, an associate professor in WVU ’s Division of Plant and Soil Sciences. Seminar classes will be limited to about 20 students and meet once a week.
Verlinden and his wife, Lisa, will serve as RFLs and live in an apartment at the residential college.
�€?Our motto is �€~domus a domus,’which means home away from home,�€? Verlinden said. �€?This really is the spirit of what we would like to get accomplished. We are striving to develop a community where students feel comfortable physically, emotionally and intellectually.
�€?I have always loved interacting with students in and outside of the classroom, and I find the RFL program is a unique and fun way to get involved with student life and academics,�€? he added. �€?I know Lisa is just as excited about the program. For her, the idea that a program like this exists makes her already feel more comfortable about sending our kids off to college �€even though that is still some years off.�€?
Besides faculty, students will interact with University staff like Jennifer McIntosh, executive officer for the President’s Office for Social Justice, and community members like Ken Ramsey, pastor at Wesleyan United Methodist Church , through the associate member program.
Associate members will explore mental and physical health-related issues, financial management, civic leadership opportunities, and local art and music with students.
Stewart noted the residential college is an extension of WVU ’s popular RFL program, an integral part of the University’s first-year experience. RFLs share meals with students, listen to their concerns, offer academic advice and plan activities such as game-watching parties, ice cream socials and trips to amusement parks and museums.
Residential college members are full-time students and participate in the life of the University as a whole.
Admission into the residential college is highly selective. The 350 students (80 percent freshmen and 20 percent upperclassmen) who make up the college were chosen by a committee of residential education staff and RFLs based on their interest in the program and potential to benefit from it.