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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.

More Good Reports from Lincoln Hall at WVU

— Earlier this year we reported on the planned opening of Lincoln Hall, the first residential college on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown. Good news keeps coming out on this important collegiate development, today in West Virginia’s Charleston Daily Mail.

WVU borrows concept from high-brow peers

Monday October 2, 2006

MORGANTOWN—Borrowing an idea from Oxford and Harvard universities, West Virginia University has created a whole new residential experience for students.

WVU has opened the first dorm to be structured as a “residential college” in the state.

Lincoln Hall opened its doors to students in August, after a year of planning and construction. It’s an attempt by WVU officials to integrate academics and dorm life and also to create a sense of community among residents.

“For a land grant university this is very unique,” said Sven Verlinden, resident faculty leader for Lincoln Hall.

While such residence halls can be found at Ivy League and other prestigious schools across the country, they have rarely been used by land-grant universities, according to Verlinden.

About 320 students reside in Lincoln Hall, and all completed an application that involved writing two essays. Students were asked what they had to offer to the Lincoln Hall community and why they wanted to live in the hall.

A committee scored the applications and made its selections based on each student’s skills and leadership qualities. The scoring was not based on academic achievement.

“We really tried to look beyond the answer and search for the students who had a true dedication to the hall,” said Alicia Moore, residential college community coordinator.

Residents of Lincoln Hall are required to take a course called University 194, instead of University 101, which is required for students in other halls.

The main difference between University 194 and University 101, according to Verlinden, is that the class is taught by faculty members.

University 101 is typically taught by graduate students with the purpose of teaching first-year students how to care for themselves, maintain good study habits and manage finances.

“This helps us keep the class size down to 25 students and create an environment where students are comfortable interacting with faculty,” Verlinden said. “It helps to create some type of exchange between academics and social life.”

A requirement of University 194 is students must attend five health and wellness or financial seminars and three on a range of topics. All of these seminars are offered in the dorm and at various times to accommodate student’s individual schedules.

“The students choose to take what interests them,” Verlinden said.

A seminar on food etiquette in which students discuss how to properly respond to an RSVP and which fork to use first is taught by Susan Hardesty, wife of WVU President David Hardesty.

Other topics include discussion on biofuels, the history of President Lincoln, reading the Iliad and comparing it to the War in Iraq and Irish history.

Students living in Lincoln Hall also have a variety of social options that other dorms don’t offer.

This year Lincoln Hall faculty will take 40 students to Western Europe during spring break. Students also had a chance to meet before the semester began with a special Adventure West Virginia program open only to Lincoln Hall residents.

Students are encouraged to come up with their own ideas for interest groups to be started in the hall; an outdoor interest group and gaming club already have been established.

“We want to create a sense of unity and belonging in the community. We want students to have a good feeling about living here and feel like this is where they belong and this is where they want to stay and graduate,” Verlinden said.

Hall officials hope to see 20 percent of upper-class students continue to live in Lincoln Hall, while the rest will move off campus. This is typical of all residence halls on WVU’s campus, according to Patricia Cendana, associate director of residential education at WVU.

Verlinden said the residential college is not the same as an honors dorm or dorm where students in a certain academic field are grouped.

“We didn’t want to have a GPA requirement or an elitist environment,” he said. “We wanted it to be average students. We didn’t want it to have a theme except for students who wanted to be active and involved.”

Residential Education is working on a plan to have all of WVU’s residence halls become residential colleges with either an academic focus or a special interest within three to four years, Cendana confirmed.

In 2007, Boreman and Fieldcrest halls will become residential colleges similar to Lincoln Hall. The Evansdale Residential Complex, which includes four halls, will become residential colleges with a focus on a particular academic field, Cendana said.

“We hope it will lead to better retention and better grades,” Verlinden said.

So far, it appears the idea of a residential college is working for WVU students.

“I love Lincoln Hall; it is what college life and dorm living should be,” said Kris Corbett, a freshman music education major from Charleston. “There are so many opportunities for different types of people. There is some place to put everyone.”

Corbett doubts he would have the same experience in a conventional dorm.

“The programs here help you get plugged in and adjust easier because you have somewhere to go,” he said.

Corbett also likes living in Lincoln Hall because he can study without distractions.

“Here they are strict about partying, and they will tell people to be quiet when students are studying,” he said. “I have friends that live downtown and they say they have to go somewhere else to study.”

Travis Wooten, a freshman secondary education major from Oceana, likes Lincoln Hall because of the student involvement.

“In the other dorms students don’t have as much input because there is a much larger population of students living there; it is not as personal,” he said. “It is an extended family environment here, which is the purpose of a dorm.”

As part of the Oxford model, Lincoln Hall has resident tutors rather than resident advisors.

“We wanted to focus more on academics and programming rather than enforcement,” Moore said. “Our primary goal is to keep academics here and help complete the mission of the resident faculty leader.”

The resident tutors had only two weeks to learn the names of every student on the floor. The first floor has 65 students, while the second, third and fourth floors have more than 90 students each.

“It has made everything so much more personal,” Wooten said.

Darby Lentz, a freshman pre-veterinary major from Wallace, considers Lincoln Hall a home.

“I feel like I want to be here, rather than just a place to sleep,” she said.

The $14.5 million residential college was built with money raised through the sale of bonds that will be repaid with tuition revenue and with student room and board fees.

Because of its suite-style living, Lincoln Hall charges $150 more per semester in room and board fees. However, daily operation costs are about the same as other halls with a few additional costs for the different programming options.

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