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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 Collegiate Plans for Colorado

[The University of Colorado at Boulder] — The University of Colorado has been talking about the residential college model since 2005, and I was interviewed two years ago by reporter Britanny Anas for a story on CU’s plans that appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera. In today’s edition of the Camera, Anas updates us on these ongoing residential college plans. It’s always difficult to tell from news reports exactly what the faculty on the ground are thinking, and there seems to be a suggestion here that they might be considering theme halls rather than residential colleges—an unfortunate turn—but the general principles being articulated at Colorado are good ones. Let’s hope they continue develop in a strong, cross-sectional, residential college direction.

CU’s old dorms get new look

University moving toward ‘residential college’ system

Construction crew members—as if guiding an MTV Cribs tour, college style—walk through one of the University of Colorado’s oldest dorms, its age concealed by an almost-finished $13 million make-over.

Arnett Hall, a more than four-decade-old dorm, will re-open this fall with a new “residential college” brand—an Ivy League idea that blends living and learning, and also means undergraduates might live next door to their professors.

The university is remodeling a chain of its dorms to shift toward the residential college idea, so that more students, including upperclassmen, will live on campus. The dorms will also host seminars, informal conversations with professors, speaker series and social activities.

Guiding the construction blueprints is the idea that learning can’t be confined to lecture halls.

In Arnett, high-tech classrooms can now be found in the halls, an addition that will allow honors students to take resident-based courses in their dorms. Study nooks, soaked with sun rays beaming through the bay windows, overlook a central pond where ducks waddle about. The spruced-up dorm rooms have built-in bulletin boards and energy-saving sensors smart enough to shut off the heat when a student cracks open a window. And in a central gathering room there are plans for a big-screen television and pull-out coffee cart.

Next-door neighbors

Scot Douglass, a CU professor who directs the Engineering Honors Program, said he will eventually move in with his wife and daughters to Andrews Hall, another dorm that will undergo a similar $13 million renovation and is scheduled to open next year.

Douglass—who has two daughters, ages 5 and 2, and is adopting a third daughter from China—said he can already picture his girls riding their tricycles down the dorm’s hallways in a living hub where “it’s cool to be nerdy and smart.”

“I’m excited for them to be on the campus, and be surrounded by ambitious, serious-minded young women who are dominating the engineering field,” he said.

The four-year Engineering Honors Program started in 2006 and currently has 70 undergraduates enrolled. But participation is expected to swell to 300 students in the next few years, and participants will be able to live in the remodeled Andrews Hall.

For now, Douglass makes a point to have lunch in campus cafeterias at least once a week so he can casually interact with students. That’s how he heard from one student about her at-home experiment using a microwave to predict the speed of light.

Future ambitions

Over the next six years, the entire Kittredge complex, which includes both Arnett and Andrews halls, will be renovated to help CU move toward the residential college system. The shift is called for in the university’s long-term plans, including the recently adopted “Flagship 2030.”

Arnett—the first on the list—will open late next month so CU can host summer conferences in the dorm. The university sees up to $4 million a year from people who stay in the dorms while attending on-campus athletic camps, academic programs and professional conferences during the summer.

In the fall, Arnett will be home to about 210 students and the Kittredge Honors Program, said Marina Florian, project manager for Housing and Dining Services. Several of the students living in Arnett will be sophomores.

Paul Strom, a CU professor who heads the Kittredge Honors Program, said he’s been able to add classes that are appropriate for continuing, second-year honors students.

The residential college idea, Strom said, is part of what’s necessary for maintaining a liberal education—meaning that learning takes place in formal and informal settings.

“That happens through face-to-face conversations, and through inspiration received from other students from different majors who share the same ambition to do well academically,” Strom said.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2016