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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

A Syllabus for a Course on Residential Colleges

— Middlebury College has a one-month winter term during which students take a single course, often a specialized seminar of some kind that meets for nine hours each week. This winter term I’m teaching a course called “The Collegiate Way: Middlebury’s Commons in Historical Context.” My 23 students and I have been reading about the history and current organization of the Oxford and Cambridge colleges, discussing positive and negative aspects of campus life, and developing recommendations for the future growth of Middlebury’s Commons—our system of five campus residential colleges. The students’ views are insightful as always, and I’m getting as much out of the course as (I hope) they are. You can find a copy of the seminar’s syllabus on my own teaching page. (Where you can also see what a fine looking group we are!)

If your university curriculum has a slot for short experimental courses, why not consider offering a course like this one? The general arrangement of this seminar could easily be adapted to any institution’s local conditions, and most of the readings and other assignments I have been giving are of general applicability. You might find your students inspired by the residential college idea, or perhaps re-inspired, and you can be sure that they will have many useful recommendations for the improvement of any campus collegiate system. One of my students, for example, seeing how the websites of other residential colleges usually had introductions to the history and life of those colleges and that his own Ross Commons website did not, produced such a webpage for Ross Commons as a class project.

A course of this kind can increase students’ understanding of the organizational structures which surround them, and over time that increased understanding will percolate by word of mouth through the rest of the student population.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021