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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.

Fairfield University Considers Residential Colleges

— Several years ago I paid a visit to the lovely campus of Fairfield University in Connecticut when it was thinking about establishing a sophomore-oriented residential program, a program that came to be called Ignatian Residential College. That experimental program was successful, and Fairfield—a Jesuit institution with about 3500 undergraduates—is now considering an expansion of this trial into a complete residential college system. Drawing on recent reports on the residential college movement in the New York Times, today’s edition of the Fairfield Mirror tell us that (even though some students are skeptical) “President Fr. Jeffrey von Arx would like to expand the program throughout the campus, making it a ‘hallmark’ of the University.” This would be a wonderful development indeed, and I wish Fairfield much success as it continues to develop collegiate plans for the future.

Living and learning

Across the country, universities such as Cornell, Princeton and West Virginia are looking to mix social and academic life by creating residential colleges.

At Fairfield, the Ignatian Residential College has been a successful experiment of living and learning and University President Fr. Jeffrey von Arx would like to expand the program throughout the campus, making it a “hallmark” of the University, according to his strategic plan.

This could mean faculty and students coexisting in dorms on campus in the future.

“What I have in mind is much more using the model of the Ignatian Residential College as a living/learning community which has been so successful for us here at Fairfield,” von Arx told The Mirror in February.

“I want to see how we can extend this to more of our students,” he said.

Combining academic activity with a community setting, where students and faculty interact in a way that creates a unique relationship, is the main purpose behind the residential colleges.

The Ignatian Residential College, located in Loyola Hall, uses a mentoring program that consists of faculty, alumni and friends of the University.

The mentors help the students living in Loyola grow academically, socially and spiritually.

Von Arx would like to bring the mentoring program to a new level through his strategic plan. In order to accommodate the expansion of the residential college program, more dorms would need to be built.

Ross Brann, a professor at Cornell, lives in Cook House, the residential college at the University.

He has an apartment in the building and provides activities for students who live along with him in the building.

At West Virginia, a new residence hall opened last August that provides housing for 350 students and has a multimedia theater, a library and resident faculty members.

Loyola Hall at Fairfield is a similarly structured building, formed through a grant by the Lilly Foundation that allowed the University to create a large commons area with a television and areas for study.

There are multiple Jesuit faculty members who reside here along with the students.

A.J. Piper ’08 lived in Loyola as a member of the Ignatian Residential College and now serves as an RA there.

He said he believes that a program that is the same as the Ignatian program would be beneficial to any university.

“If the program is identical, it would be a benefit to expand it,” Piper said. “It fosters a community that provides students with an exceptional level of comfort, evoking honest self-expression and personal growth.”

“Beyond that, our program helps academically because you take courses with students living with you and the professors have a strong relationship with the community. A living and learning residential college is a great asset,” he added.

Jenny Mingus ’10, who also lives in Loyola, said that the programs from the Ignatian Residential College should not be extended throughout the campus.

“I love Loyola so far, but I feel like the reason Loyola is so great is because it is designed for students who apply and take it seriously,” said Mingus. “Around campus others may not take it so seriously.”

Chris Gardner ’10 said he would not like faculty to live in dorms.

“We already have a housing problem, so it would not help to have faculty living in dorms,” said Gardner. “Plus, it would be hard to live with faculty in the building; it wouldn’t be like living next door to other college students.”

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2016