What is it?
A collegiate residential environment in which live in faculty play an integral role in the programming and leadership of the community – Residential College Society
The mission for residential colleges at VT is to give students a place to belong, learn and give. This is embodied in the philosophy of VT residential colleges “know and be known.” While VT has 3 active residential programs and one more in development, they aren’t well advertised especially for students that enter the community in a non-traditional manner (transfer undergraduate students, non-traditional undergraduate students, or graduate students). I only recently discovered this on campus from an article in the Fall 2019 Virginia Tech Magazine which highlighted the Honors Residential College.
Residential colleges are an old model for university educations, where students live with or near their professors in order to learn from them and to aid professors. Residential colleges provide places for students to live and learn together but are different from “living learning programs” because in residential programs faculty leaders live with students and are responsible for cultivating the community through programs and or scholarly activities.
At VT residential colleges serve multigenerational communities, students at different years in their enrollment at VT. Incoming members of a residential college will sign a 2-year housing contract to give students a sense of roots in the university and helps to develop community. Oftentimes students that have stayed in the community longer serve as mentors to the new students. In addition to older students and the faculty principal, a student life coordinator is attached to the community to help with the community development and management as the university student affairs liaison. In residential colleges with strong scholarly components other faculty at the university can join the community as associated faculty members. These members can deliver guest lectures or host special activities for the community. Other residential programs offer certificates or minors for students to pursue to give students something tangible to show on their resumes or transcripts from their membership in the community.
VT has 3 established residential colleges:
- Honors Residential Commons – East Ambler Johnston Hall: serves students in the honors college
- The Residential College at West Ambler Johnston Hall: invites students of all academic programs to be together, not the same.
- Leadership and Social Change Residential College – O’Shaughnessy Hall: a 2-year academic program leadership studies and development program with 2 required courses; collaborating with the CALS department of agricultural, leadership, and community education
& 1 in development:
- The Creativity and Innovation district to be built on the Eastern edge of campus to be affiliated the Studio 72 and Innovate programs on VT’s campus.
What does it mean to be a faculty principal?
Faculty principals are responsible for coordinating educational and social programs to facilitate the development of the individual community. This role requires a principal to have a vision for the community, to build relationships with the members of the community as individuals and as part of the group. Furthermore, faculty principals will have a unique role in students lives as a mentor and advisor. So, what does this entail exactly? Since VT is developing a 4th residential college, they have a job posting for a new faculty principal that consolidates the information for prospective faculty.
- Responsibilities: Live in the apartment with your family (pets allowed) for 12 months, encourage create of community, stimulate other faculty involvement, lead and work with the community leadership team, Host regular activities, lectures, informal gatherings with residents, participate in recruitment and admissions of new students
- Benefits: 9 month appointment for 3 years (renewable once), $9,000 administrative stipend ($3,000 with negotiated 3 months of summer work), furnished apartment and partial meal allowance- expectation that meals allowance with be used to facilitate responsibilities, Ability to negotiate a one-course reduction in teaching load, annual programming budget provided
- Qualifications: Tenured or Tenure-Track faculty member at VT
This still leaves me with the question of how would involvement as a faculty principal impact research productivity? I hate to say this, but it doesn’t seem very feasible for a STEM experimental scientist (mentoring graduate students) to serve as a faculty principal as they would be tied up significantly with community activities. I also wonder if the faculty principal role could be expanded to include academic tract faculty. I don’t see why an academic faculty member should be excluded from this potential role.
During my undergraduate program I was involved with residence education by working as a residential assistant at Michigan State University and during my freshman year I lived in a living learning community. Being a part of a living learning community was a wonderful experience for me I was able to live with people who had common interests, we also registered for most of the same sections in general education classes so we were able to spend a lot of time with each other. The program also had a seminar course every week that all participants were in and the RAs and professors created weekly events to further foster a sense of community. For me this program was essential for my success at college and while ultimately my interests diverged with the program causing me to leave the community but I am forever grateful for the program and am looking for a way to give back to such a program in the future.
My experience with residential life changed once I became a RA because I was involved in the not so fun part. For me I excelled at maintaining security and structure in the building, I struggled with the planning events and activities. I realized that the reason I flourished in the living learning community was because of the common interest or the learning component of the program. I wasn’t able to replicate that in my own RA experience because I couldn’t find a way to connect all my residents. Considering my past interest and understanding my personal life currently, I wouldn’t feel comfortable serving as a Faculty principal in a residential college. I would love to be involved in a residential program or living learning community as an associate faculty (as its known at VT) because I am so grateful for my own experience.
Residential College Society. (n.d.). Definition. Retrieved from https://residentialcollegesociety.org/definition/
Residential Colleges at Virginia Tech. Retrieved from https://llc.vt.edu/residential_colleges.html
Barlow, M. (2019). Living, Learning, and Loving It. Virginia Tech Magazine Fall 2019. Vol 42, No 1. p:42-46