New communities to shake up dorm life

Students returning to on-campus housing after summer vacation will find a bit of a change to their residence halls.

Residence Life plans to change how UAA students live on campus by the fall semester 2006 by trying to help students adjust to college by putting them into what it calls “learning communities.” These communities will place students of common academic interests in the same housing areas.

“These living/learning communities help them feel included among other students,” said Michael Votava, associate director of residence life. “Students with a common major interest that share a living environment usually tend to stay in school longer than those that feel left out.”

Residence Life considers North Hall the first-year experience hall. Accordingly, it is geared toward first-year students under the age of 20, and provides tutoring, academic and living skills workshops and other peer support groups.

North Hall will remain the same next fall with the exception that students may have to enroll in Guidance 150.

“It is our expectation that all first-year students co-enroll in Guidance 150,” Votava said. “Guidance 150 is a college survival skills class that gives students a better understanding for surviving college.”

Some students, such as Tristina Schultz, have expressed doubts about the changes.

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“At first I didn’t think the learning communities at UAA were the best. Now I think there is valid reasons for having them,” said Schultz, a peer mentor in West Hall. “I think the new learning communities will help students more than the older ones do.”

West Hall will now house the Nightingale Community, geared toward nursing students, as well as the Psychology Community on its fourth floor. These communities will provide tutoring and host special events related to the students’ course of study.

The first and second floor of West Hall will be the first-year focus community. There, first-year students will have mentors and tutoring options in West Hall similar to the aid currently offered in North Hall.

East Hall will host the Honors Community on its fourth floor. The third floor will house the Aviation Community. MAC apartments will be offered to students 21 years old and older, and one of the MAC buildings will be reserved exclusively for non-traditional students.

Templewood will host Alyeska House, which is designed to provide support for Alaska Native and rural Alaskan students majoring in engineering and other science-related fields.

With the addition of these new communities, UAA’s dorms will also lose a few that had been previously established.

West Hall will lose its Quiet Community, a hallway with certain requirements to regulate excessive noise. West will also lose its Languages and Cultures Community, which allows students to interact with others who speak various languages and come from other culture.

“The reasons behind the changes are that the students’ needs have changed,” said Heather Stalling, a resident coordinator in West Hall.

All students, including those currently living in the dorms, will have to express their intent to Residence Life if they wish to live in the new learning communities. If they don’t, Residence Life will assist them with other living options.

“If they do not meet the qualifications of the learning community, then they will be assisted with finding other on-campus living environments,” Stalling said.