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The Daily Mississippian on Collegiate Plans for Oxford

— The University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, is considering the residential college model for its campus. Hays Burchfield writes in the 27 February edition of The Daily Mississippian:

Provost Carolyn Staton’s dream is to see a residential college established at Ole Miss.

Staton has called a faculty meeting Monday at noon in the Johnson Commons Ballroom to discuss planning for the university’s future, which may include the addition of a residential college.

“Right now we’re just looking into it to see if it’s the direction we want to go in,” Staton said. “We’re investigating the possibility. I’m very interested in it, and many people on campus are excited about it too.”

A residential college is a small cross-section of undergraduates living together within a larger university. The undergraduates live in a building complex with spaces for dining, studying, teaching, relaxing and socializing.

The first residential colleges were founded at Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England, and approximately 65 colleges and universities across the United States have some form of a residential college system.

“In March we’re bringing down a consultant on campus for students and faculty to meet and talk about a possible residential college here,” Staton said….

The consultant is Robert O’Hara, who has 14 years’ experience in residential college life and administration. He served as a resident tutor in Dudley House, one of the residential colleges at Harvard University, and he was the principal founder of Cornelia Strong College at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, serving as its senior tutor (dean of students) for six years.

O’Hara is an evolutionary biologist, and he is now a fellow of Ezra Brainerd Commons, one of the five residential colleges that make up Middlebury College in Vermont. Middlebury has 2,200 students, and it is the first liberal arts college in the United States to establish a system of smaller residential colleges, called Commons, within itself.

In addition to bringing a consultant to campus next month, the provost went on a two-day trip during the last week of January to the University of Miami and to the University of Florida in Gainesville to see how residential colleges work there.

Director of Student Housing and Residence Life Bill McCartney and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Glenn Hopkins accompanied Staton to Florida.

McCartney said a residential college on campus may be built instead of a new residence hall.

“We are exploring the possibility of one or more residential colleges within our mix of housing here at the university,” McCartney said.

“Phase 2 of the Phoenix Project would require us to build another building, and we’re looking at whether it’ll be a dorm or a new building facility for a residential college.”

McCartney said the residential college would possibly “offer classes in the community right where they live.”

“A residential college would have at least one faculty member with his or her family living in the building with the students,” McCartney said.

Many universities with a residential college place their honors students in them. Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, said he is receptive to the idea of a residential college.

“Anything that stimulates students to engage the University of Mississippi both academically and socially is worthwhile,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “Many residential colleges have been successful in creating a stimulating environment.”

At the announced faculty meeting, Michael Newsom reports,

Staton and faculty members discussed the recently proposed residential college, which would consist of buildings that would serve as both residential halls and classrooms, with some faculty members living with students.

Staton said the ideal system would not choose students for each hall by their field of study, but utilize a random selection process.

A trial run of the proposed residential college would begin with only one or two halls and would later incorporate more buildings, Staton said….

Staton said the proposed college would create “cohesive units of people,” and she would eventually like to see the residential college have coed dorms. She also noted that implementing such a system would be a challenge.

The provost said she feels students would benefit from a residential college because they would have a particular residential college they could identify with, instead of identfying themselves with a greek organization or a particular major.

She said it would help to create more socialization on campus.

Others agreed.

“It gives you a grounding and a place to eat. It lets students start to think of themselves as a member of a community,” said Jan Murray, associate dean of liberal arts.

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