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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.

Colleges and Construction at UC San Diego

— I had the great pleasure last week of visiting and speaking about residential colleges and the collegiate way of living at the Gilbane Higher Education Facilities Forum, hosted by Eleanor Roosevelt College at the University of California, San Diego. Gilbane is one of the largest building and construction development firms in the United States, and they do a great deal of work in higher education. Geff Bottomley of Gilbane kindly invited me to participate, and I’m grateful to him and his colleagues for the opportunity.

Along with UC Santa Cruz, UCSD was one of the campuses of the University of California system that was conceived on a residential college plan from its founding in the 1960s. Nancy Scott Anderson’s volume An Improbable Venture: A History of the University of California, San Diego outlines the story for interested readers.

There are now six residential colleges at UCSD—Revelle, John Muir, Thurgood Marshall, Earl Warren, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Sixth—and Eleanor Roosevelt College has just set up housekeeping in a brand new small campus of its own designed by architect Moshe Safdie. (It had previously occupied a number of unconnected buildings at disparate locations that prevented the college from having a clear sense of place—a geographical “hearth.”) Prof. Ann Craig, ERC’s provost, gave all the participants in the Gilbane Forum an excellent tour of the new ERC buildings, of which she and her students are justifiably proud. A favorite spot of mine was the plaza in front of the spacious new college dining hall, all overlooking a comfortable green courtyard.

[Image: Dining hall and courtyard of Eleanor Roosevelt College, UCSD]

The dining hall (left) and lower courtyard of Eleanor Roosevelt College at the University of California at San Diego. Photo by R.J. O’Hara.

The residential college philosophy is well established at UCSD, and like collegiate systems everywhere, the UCSD colleges seek to create a small college atmosphere in the context of a large university. And as has also happened at a number of institutions, the UCSD colleges have, over the years, grown quite a bit larger than they were initially; most of the individual residential colleges now found in universities around the world are smaller than the colleges at UCSD. The University of Durham recently added its 16th college, Josephine Butler College, and it did so purposely without increasing the overall student population, so that the average number of students per college could be reduced. UCSD may choose to go in that direction in the future as well.

But with views of the mountains on one side, and sunsets over the Pacific on the other, perhaps there are more compelling things to think about on a southern California campus….

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2014