The Collegiate Way: Residential Colleges & the Renewal of University Life  ‹›


Collegiate Consulting from Dr. Robert O’Hara

“That was spectacular.” —The provost of a state flagship campus “The guru of residential colleges.” —An associate provost at a major public university
“Dr. O’Hara’s presentation opened my eyes to what a college can be and what it can accomplish.” —A faculty member at a Mexican university “Your visit was a highlight of term! Feedback from students has been very good. Some of the keeners are already talking about new initiatives.” —The principal of a Canadian residential college
“We all talked today in a meeting with the provost about how inspiring your visit was. I certainly hope we can have you back in the not too distant future.” —A senior faculty member at a California university “Thank you, thank you! We really enjoyed having you here to inspire and re-invigorate our thinking about campus residential initiatives.” —The dean of students at a New England liberal arts college
“Your advice was brilliant as usual.” —An associate vice chancellor at a major American university “A national leader in the contemporary residential college movement.” —American Association of Colleges and Universities
“It was a stroke of genius to invite him here.” —A faculty member at a large private university “You’ve helped our efforts more than you know.” —A dean at a major Texas university
“I’m very excited by this. Let’s start planning.” —The president of a large public university

I am available as a formal or informal speaker and consultant to universities, colleges, and schools that are either exploring the residential college model—also known as the house model—or that would like to have an outside visitor look over their existing collegiate system. I have sixteen years’ experience in residential college life and administration, first at Harvard University and later at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where I was the principal founder and first Senior Tutor (dean of students) of Cornelia Strong College. I received my Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from Harvard, and in addition to my collegiate work I have also taught and conducted research in biology and the historical sciences at Harvard, UNCG, and at Middlebury College where I was a fellow of Ezra Brainerd Commons, one of Middlebury’s five residential colleges. I have been an invited speaker on residential colleges at universities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, and Ireland, and my residential college work has been cited in The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. A more complete vita is available on my academic webpage.

I approach residential college speaking and consulting as a professional educator and I consider it part of my scholarly work; I don’t do it as a for-profit business. I’m always glad to exchange e-mail or talk on the phone about residential colleges as my time permits. Just as I have given research seminars on biology at universities and conferences around the world, so also am I happy to visit any campus and talk to students and faculty about residential colleges and house systems. I can offer advice on how to get new residential colleges established, suggest ways in which existing buildings and grounds can be used to best effect, recommend social structures that will help to create a rich and stable community, and show how all these things can be done much less expensively than you might think. All my recommendations are very practical and specific; you won’t get head-in-the-clouds educational theory from me. (If you know the Myers-Briggs personality types, I’m an INTJ.) In exchange for such a visit I would expect only the customary academic compensation: a speaker’s honorarium and reimbursement of travel expenses. I promise to leave you inspired, excited, and energized by the possibilities that residential colleges offer your institution.

When visiting your campus I can meet with any individuals or groups that you wish. This might include core faculty and administrators who are interested in residential colleges—perhaps meeting them in a campus dining hall or dormitory—as well as a group of your best students. It would also be helpful to tour existing or prospective college buildings and grounds, perhaps with students and faculty together, and to observe the patterns of traffic and social interaction. For the purposes of the visit an on-campus guest room, if one is available, can be a more informative place to stay than an off-campus hotel. If you’re able to provide me in advance with a copy of your university catalog and any publications you may have about the history of your institution that would be helpful as well.

Contacting me by e-mail is most convenient ( You’re also welcome to visit my academic webpage ( for more information about my background, and the main Collegiate Way webpage ( for more information about my residential college work.

What Students Say About My Teaching

At the University of North Carolina at Greensboro I received the College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Excellence Award and was nominated for the Alumni Teaching Excellence Award, the university’s highest teaching award. I also taught a series of successful courses at Middlebury College in Vermont. Students in my courses have said:

“This class is one of the best of my undergraduate experience.”

“Mr. O’Hara is the best science teacher I’ve ever had.”

“Dr. O’Hara is awesome! His enthusiasm for the topic is indispensable and a rare quality in most instructors. I thank him for a great course and hope to be in more classes of his.”

“This class has dramatically changed my view of the world. I now have an appreciation for our environment that wasn’t there before this class.”

“This class made me love science, biology, and nature. Dr. O’Hara opened my eyes!”

“Dr. O’Hara is the bomb!”

“Best damn professor I've had!!”

“Thanks, Professor O’Hara, for teaching one of my favorite courses at Middlebury thus far.”

“Fantastic. By far the best course I have taken at Middlebury.”

“Many teachers would do well to take a page out of RJO’s book.”

“Although he is very modest about it, he can make realistic bird calls.”

“I hope to have the good fortune of being your student again.”

What They Said About My Residential College Work in North Carolina

Comments from students, parents, faculty, and staff:

“We are especially thankful that our daughter is a part of a campus community where people look after each other.” —A parent

“I have been so happy and comfortable from almost the moment I got here.” —A freshman

“It’s like a family.” —A student

“It’s my favorite place to be.” —A student

“It’s the greatest home-away-from-home anyone could ever have.” —A student

“Each time I see my son I am again impressed with his happiness and fulfillment as part of Strong College.… He is learning so much and is benefitting from his relationships with faculty and students. Your caring efforts are evident everywhere.” —A parent

“It’s really rewarding and energizing for me to see the excitement of a student that we’ve recruited as she moves from prospective student to applicant to a new voice in Strong College!” —A university admissions officer

“If we had ordered up something [for our daughter’s college experience] thirteen years ago when she first started school we couldn’t have picked anything better.” —A parent of a freshman

Strong College “has been one of the richest experiences of my professional life.” —A fellow of the College

Strong College “has given me hope about what higher education can do.” —A fellow of the College

“I wish some of the other buildings would be like this. It would save us a lot of headaches.” —A campus security officer

“I get to go home a week from tomorrow. I am looking forward to it. But I am going to miss this place. It is my home! What will I do without card games till 3 in the morning, procrastinating in the JCR, visiting Dr. O’Hara and Tim in the Office, and spending time with all my new friends. This semester has been filled with some of the best times of my life.” —A first-semester freshman at the end of the term

What They Say About The Collegiate Way Website

Faculty, students, administrators, architects, and alumni comment on the Collegiate Way website:

“Just a brief note to tell you how much I appreciate your newsletter and web page. [At my university] we are just beginning to inch toward collegiate living, something that students are seeking. The resources you provide are most useful and informative. Thank you!” —A faculty member at a Washington, D.C., university

“I read with interest (too mild a term) your ‘how to’ summary. I want to tell you that your web site has been tremendously inspiring and motivating to me. My boss said to me today that he was now ‘sold’ on the idea of residential colleges.” —A faculty member at a California university

“I have really appreciated all of the information on the site and appreciate the books that you have recommended. They are helping me in my effort to revamp the program [at my institution].” —An administrator at a Minnesota university

“I am so grateful for the energy you put into this site. It is wonderful. This is a tremendous service to those who seek this knowledge.” —A professional architect

“I enjoyed your notes on building a college. Very charming, witty, idealistic and thoroughly positive. [It is an] exuberant piece.” —A college master at an Australian university

“I came across the Collegiate Way website one day and took a few minutes to read through the articles.… I would like to express my agreement with the problems you presented about the poverty of student life on campus. Every day I am aware of the complete lack of connection between the classroom and student life outside of the classroom. I also see the virus of the irresponsible student pervading the good student that in reality does want to learn, but feels suffocated by the pressure to conform. Hopefully, by the time my children are of age to attend college, the residential college reform will be complete and they will be able to enjoy and prosper from their college experience.” —An undergraduate at a Texas university

“You’re read by college heads all across Australia.” —A college master at an Australian university

“I have been trying to convince my undergraduate institution to move to a residential college system. Recently [I saw your] website, and I’m finding it to be an inspirational resource.… Thanks so much for your help on this issue and for your commitment to the residential college cause.” —An alumnus of a Pennsylvania liberal arts college

© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021