By Jonathan Smith, Editor in Chief
Moving forward with the idea of living and learning communities, Residence Life Education and Housing will expand that idea next fall to incorporate Barret Hall.
Next year, sophomore men and women will have the opportunity to create 22 of their own living and learning community groups – one group for each of Barret’s living spaces.
Dr. Mimi Barnard, director of Residence Life Education and Housing, said because learning can take place in any setting on campus, creating these smaller groups of students with common interests in the residence halls allows for even more focused learning.
“Because people are together, they’re energized by each other,” Barnard said. “They can come together and be really good friends early in their development and have a common language.”
Barnard said Barret’s unique construction makes it the optimal place to try this concept.
Although it’s considered one residence hall, Barret essentially is four separate buildings with about six living spaces in each building. Each living space has a common room with four bedrooms attached. Eight students live in each living space, and only those eight students have card access to their living space, each of which opens to the outside.
Having men and women live in Barret Hall would be comparable the set-up in Smith and Adams halls, where women live in Adams, men live in Smith and they are connected by a large lobby.
The university has utilized living and learning communities in its residence halls for three years. The program first included freshman men biblical studies majors and has grown each year.
Whereas living and learning communities have been limited to business or biblical studies majors and their roommates the past three years, the new community concept for Barret Hall will extend that opportunity to the whole student body.
“There are limitless numbers of ways students can organize themselves,” Barnard said, suggesting such groups as students who plan to do mission work in an upcoming summer.
In the coming weeks, Barnard said this year’s freshmen will have the opportunity to organize into groups of eight and fill out a one- or two-page application that will include each group’s vision for their community. Groups will also select a faculty sponsor who can meet with them periodically throughout the year and some sort of project, such as reading a book together or working on a service project, that the group can do together throughout the year.
Although students are assigned to other residence halls using a lottery system, Barnard said a committee will review all of the groups’ applications for Barret Hall and select the 22 groups from their applications.
Other living and learning community options next year include one floor of McKinzie Hall for freshman men business and biblical studies majors and their roommates and one floor of McDonald for freshman women business and biblical studies majors and their roommates.
Barnard said she is sensitive to the fact that some might believe pulling specific groups of students out to live in certain residence halls could segregate certain groups out of the student body. However, Barnard said because the university has other community-building opportunities, such as Chapel and intramurals, students still have a chance to interact with everyone else on campus whether or not they live in a living and learning community.