Virginia Tech® home

Residential College at West Ambler Johnston

residential college at west AJ logo

At Virginia Tech, education is more than just going to class; it’s about the experience. The time you spend with friends, classmates, and faculty will transform your college experience; all you need is the chance to make the connections.

Our Crest

The coat of arms of the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston was designed by a group of faculty, staff, and students in the spring of 2012. It has five symbols in the foreground, over a four-quadrant background.

The shape of the shield incorporates the gothic arch seen in the architecture throughout Virginia Tech’s campus. The border in Chicago Maroon reflects Virginia Tech’s traditional colors. The darker blue bezel of the interior border represents knowledge and integrity. The background is composed of four quadrants, which represent the four houses in West Ambler Johnston. The lighter shades of blue symbolize the quest for understanding, wisdom, and truth. The use of progressive intensities of blue represents the process of change and growth. The quadrants of the shield, displaying varying color intensity and size, also remind us of our limestone-clad buildings, distinguishing Virginia Tech and reminding us we are part of a larger university community with a rich heritage.

The woven cord is the same cord that appears in the Honors’ Residential College Coat of Arms, representing the intertwined nature of these colleges. Not only do these communities share common space in the Ambler Johnston complex, but they share a common origin and history. The weaving together of lives and elements of the college life remind us of the residence hall’s namesake, J. Ambler Johnston, and his statement: “It’s our hope we may weave equally good threads into the fabric of the history of VPI.”

The crest contains a saltire, or diagonal cross and serves as the foundation of the coat of arms, anchoring the shield. It represents the solid, strong foundation of Ambler Johnston, on which progress and growth can flourish. The same crest stands watch over the west entrance to the Residential College.

The torch is the most prominent image in the coat of arms because it represents the essence of the college. It lights the way and guides students through their undergraduate experience at Virginia Tech. It also links the college with the history of the building because it replicates the torches that appear beside the original crest on Ambler Johnston hall. In the torch are four flames. These flames represent the motto “Know and be Known.” This is a fundamental purpose for creation of the college, reminding students of the importance of attaining self-understanding and integrity, and intentionally joining themselves to community. The varying sizes of the torch flames reflect the multi-generational nature of the college residents—first-years through graduate students. Finally, the torch also represents the passing of the Virginia Tech legacy from one group of students to the next.

The key represents the five Aspirations for Student Learning that guide the Division of Student Affairs. The particular key image shown represents the aspiration “Embrace Ut Prosim as a way of life.” It is a reminder that pursuing higher education is a remarkable privilege that carries a related responsibility, and that graduates should serve others and contribute to the world.

The vine, shown in the coat of arms climbing up the torch, represents personal, academic, and community growth. It reflects a continual pursuit of truth, knowledge, and justice. Nine leaves grow on the vine, representing the nine academic colleges at Virginia Tech. Finally, the vine illustrates the strong and lasting friendships built among members of the college.

An additional benefit of choosing the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston is that incoming first-year students will have a two-year contract, thereby securing on-campus housing for their second year as well. This aids in the creation of a multi-generational community, where mentorship and student leadership are essential to the success of the residential college.

We’re more than just a place.

We offer something a bit different, something not for everyone, because it’s something special, something more interesting than you’ll find elsewhere on campus. The Residential College at West AJ is a unique community of 850+ students, from all years and all academic disciplines, all living together in a specialized, air-conditioned residence hall. We have a movie theater, great lounges, and classroom space right inside the building – and they’re all intended for both socializing and learning, spaces to enable mentorship and conversations about real, important things.

The Residential College at West Ambler Johnston takes the medieval “vera universitas” as a model in being both a “true university” and (more literally) a “real community.” This vera universitas is a shared physical and intellectual space that generates its energy from the collaboration, both formal and informal, between teachers and students outside the classroom. Here, information becomes knowledge. Here, opinion becomes analysis. Here, belief becomes conclusion. Together, the diverse community of the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston opens up the questions, discussion, and analysis they will take with them beyond Virginia Tech.

First and foremost, the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston is a place where students belong, learn, and give. This multi-disciplinary, first-year through graduate level living-learning community, thriving with meaningful and sustained relationships among faculty, staff, students, and the worlds they pursue together, promote rich intellectual, cultural, and social context where students "know and are known." The residential colleges seek self-motivated, lifelong learners, with diverse interests, who will build a community of scholars in the spirit of Virginia Tech's motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

House System

Over 800 students make up the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston. To help create smaller, more meaningful communities, the college is divided into four houses.

The four houses are Hawthorn, Hickory, Holly, and Honey Locust. Each house is named for a tree that grows in Virginia. We chose four trees that start with H in order to represent Virginia Tech's background as a land-grant institution and its ties to the 4-H Club and extension education.

In Hawthorn House we aim to foster a more accepting community that promotes cultural awareness and academic advancement. With this pursuit in mind, we strive to provide opportunities for peer learning and open discussion that encourage critical thinking. We are open-minded, curious, welcoming, and actively pursue our interests.

We are an active and ambitious community of students interested in expanding our academic experience beyond the classroom. We take it upon ourselves to be open and engaging to our fellow residents and accepting of their ideas. We believe that every student has the ability to create their own experience here through the multiple different avenues that the house provides to better one's self. We aim to be the most active house, and a community that residents want to be a part of. In essence, we strive to be your home away from home, and if you so choose, we would love to have you be a part of the family.

Holly House is a safe and inclusive environment where residents feel empowered to promote their passions and embrace the house motto, “Growing Together," through education, tradition, and commitment to service.

Twitter: @HollyHouseWAJ

Instagram: @holly_housewaj

Honey Locust is an intentional community of unintentional happenings, leaving you with your most cherished friendships. Whether it is by illuminating conversations, or our sweet but prickly demeanor, this community will draw you in and empower you to greatness. Everything we do counts, but not for points. We are independent, genuine, and accepting. Honey Locust is home.

The Residential College at West AJ is led by a live-in faculty principal and supported by the 25 affiliated faculty members. Differences are celebrated as students in the Residential College work actively to “be together, not the same.”

The Residential College at West Ambler Johnston has a variety of leadership positions that work towards making your experience the best it can be. From the faculty principal down to student leadership opportunities for you, we hope you'll take time to build relationships with all the members of our community.

Within the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston, there are a variety of opportunities for Junior Fellows (undergraduate residents) to explore and take on leadership positions. The West AJ Alliance is comprised of representatives from all 4 houses, and assisted by a Secretary General (who makes sure that stuff gets done), and a Public Relations Coordinator (who assists all the houses in advertising events).

For additional information, contact Faculty Principal, Dr. Danna Agmon, at