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Residence hall programs promote academics
November 9, 1998

The Department of Residential Life's strategy to promote resident students' academic development gets a major boost from programs in the new South Campus residence halls.

"The idea is to get together with people you see in classes. You can live together and work on projects together."

Maureen Croteau
Professor and Head
and Physical Chemistry,
Journalism Department

"In the student development/student affairs profession, we've spent a lot of time talking about the academic and curricular development of our students and working to form partnerships with the academic community to form good co-curricular experiences for our students," said Kim Chambers, who was until recently the academic program coordinator for DRL.

Chambers, now an academic assistant in the Institute for Teaching and Learning, also chaired the department's Academic Concerns Committee. The committee was formed to explore ways to increase the residence halls' efforts to help students with their academic work.

He said the committee encouraged the University to build classroom space and more study space into the South Campus residence hall design.

"One reason South Campus provided us with that opportunity is because when you turn a residence hall into something else, it's difficult because some of the students don't want to leave," Chambers said. "They want to preserve their old communities - but now that we're building new residence hall space it's a great time to establish new programs."

The new programs in South Campus include "clusters" of students within particular majors living and studying near each other, an honors residence hall, and classroom space that will be available in Building A, one of the three residence halls in South Campus, in the spring semester.

These South Campus programs join existing residential life academic programs, which include the First Year Experience study skills classes, being taken this year by about 850 students, and other specialty residence hall groupings such as foreign languages, science and engineering.

Although there is a language laboratory in the foreign language house in Alsop A Hall in West Campus and faculty have used residence hall computer labs for classroom demonstrations, Chambers noted that before South Campus was built there was limited space for classes in residence halls. One exception is a multi-purpose room in McConaughy Hall in North Campus. South Campus will have five multi-purpose rooms available, for classes of up to 50 students.

Some classes have already been assigned to the South Campus classrooms for the spring.

Those likely to use the rooms include the departments whose majors comprise the clusters of 12 to 16 students each - journalism, math, English, nursing, communication sciences, music, drama and art. There are two other clusters not associated with a particular academic department - women in the sciences and math, and international studies.

Chambers said the cluster idea resulted from conversations with academic departments that were interested in grouping students together in residence halls.

Maureen Croteau, professor and head of the journalism department, said she corresponded with Carmen L. Vance, then associate vice president of student affairs and director of residential life, as far back as 1992 - long before the South Campus was planned - asking for ways to group journalism students together in residence halls.

"The idea is to get together with people you see in classes," she said. "You can live together and work on projects together."

Croteau added that the multi-purpose rooms not only provide space for classes but places where professionals can meet with groups of students.

Robert Stephens, professor and head of the music department, said the South Campus clusters provide "an environment that was logistically good for students," noting that they spend considerable time in ensembles and rehearsals beyond the normal day.

Many of the students in the South Campus residence halls are seniors. When they graduate, said Chambers, there will be an opportunity to evaluate the clusters and either expand existing clusters or create new ones.

Residential life also started a program known as "study buddies" or "peer pals," with the goal of introducing students in a particular residence hall to others who are taking the same classes.

"After we get the students' permission, we can get a computer printout of everyone in the hall who is taking Anthropology 204, for example," Chambers said. "If they're in a class of 60 people, students don't necessarily connect who is in that classroom with who is in their residence hall."

In addition, DRL is teaching resident assistants how to conduct study groups.

Faculty or others wishing to use classroom space in South Campus for one-time events may contact Jennifer Natale at (860) 486-6570.

Ken Ross