Learning Communities - A New Approach to Residential
"Residential areas are where students make meaning of their education,"
says Gary Hartz, director of the new office of residential learning
communities and housing (RLCH), which was created by last year's merger
of the former office of residential life (once upon a time called "housing")
and the residential component of the First-Year Program. Hartz, who
oversees a staff of two new assistant directors, four residential coordinators,
two secretaries and more than 60 student community assistants (formerly
Resident Assistants and College Assistants, or RAs and CAs), captures
the spirit of change with his enthusiasm for what the RLCH is all about.
Among the many books on Hartz's shelves stands a volume entitled Training
Character. That name suggests part of his philosophy.
"Community exists when students realize they can have a positive
effect on their environment, and take the responsibility to act in ways
that are beneficial to themselves and others," he tells me during
an extensive conversation in his warm, comfortable office on a cold
February afternoon. "We are giving students a more active role
in shaping the residential experience," he says, noting that RLCH
offers a growing number of alcohol education, diversity and social interaction
programs such as pizza parties and movie nights.
Hartz promises that RLCH will continue to work with faculty and students
on initiatives to raise the academic relevance of different residential
experiences such as themed living areas, citing the Artists' Guild and
the Strategy and Gaming Hall as but two examples of groups of students
who can provide educational programming. "We strive to promote
community as the heart of learning," he concludes.
Kenneth Okoth '01
A native of Nairobi, Kenya, Ken Okoth was an intern in the University
communications office in spring 2001, after returning from his fall
semester in Denmark.