The concept of the residential college offers new opportunities for learning engagement at Virginia Tech, which serves the largest full-time student population in Virginia. Well established at smaller liberal arts and Ivy League colleges, residential colleges have grown in popularity at public state institutions. The increased interactions with faculty preceptors and peers from all academic disciplines and years provides a thriving sense of community that supports academic and civic engagement.
Some aspects of the community are intrinsic to the residential–college environment, such as guest lectures, shared meals, educational seminars, and social events. The most important traditions are shaped and maintained by members. The residential college centers around the shared values of:
- belonging to a supportive environment where members are responsible to each other,
- curiosity and an interest in lifelong learning, and
- engagement within and outside the community through active participation and service.
The Student Life Coordinator (SLC) partners with the faculty principal to implement the strategic plan of the Residential College to meet its intellectual and learning goals. As the professional staff member from Housing and Residence Life, the SLC works with routine residence hall matters, creates and implements support interventions, manages resident conduct matters, and serves on department committees. Importantly, they supervise the Assistant Student Life Coordinator, Graduate Resident Fellows, student staff Resident Advisors. The SLC is a live-in position and they are neighbors to students in the community.
Within Residential Colleges, there are a variety of opportunities for Junior Fellows (undergraduate residents) to explore and take on leadership positions, thus creating a deeper sense of community in the Residential College. In doing so, they’re assisted by Resident Advisors (RAs), Graduate Residential Fellow (GRF), and Associate Faculty Principal (AFP). Most importantly. We firmly believe that all our residents should bring their own unique talents and experiences to share with those on their hall and in the Residential College as a whole. All Junior Fellows may create programming or plan events, and all Junior Fellows have access to funding and resources to assist them in their planning.
The Residential College Philosophy
Residential colleges are communities of students who share a deep intellectual curiosity. Members actively take part in lectures, discussions, social events, and other collective activities that create a sense of shared tradition around their community.
While many living–learning communities are primarily for first year students, the residential college model deliberately places freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students under the same roof. As a result, returning students play an important mentoring and leadership role. If they choose to, members have the opportunity to stay in the residential college throughout their time at the university, although they may transition to more private room styles as they become senior members of the community.
The residential colleges reflect all aspects of student learning, touching intellectual life, social life, and contemplative life. They give residents a space where they can govern themselves, in collaboration with faculty and staff members, in a unique academic atmosphere.
The collaborative environment offers many opportunities for formal and informal student leadership, as residents participate in governance of their community and mentorship for peers and younger members. The experiences students get from a residential college help them take learning beyond the classroom and apply it to all aspects of life.
When students graduate from the university and their residential college community, they will have gained more than knowledge in their chosen subject matter; they will possess experience in analytical thinking, creative problem solving, and finding common ground among diverse groups of people.
The faculty principal is responsible for coordinating educational programs, fostering academic engagement, and enriching the residential college's unique culture. The principal provides the academic vision of the residential college, gets to know residents and their individual interests, and provides guidance throughout students' university careers.
The faculty principal develops and sponsors programs that support Student Affairs' Aspirations for Student Learning, as well as the goals of the university's strategic plan. The principal also participates in educational and social programs sponsored by students and other staff members.