New living options attempt to bridge student-faculty gap

Housing is encouraging Tech students to “Think Big” for the 2009-2010 school year. Plans have been finalized to give students the option of living in 14 living-learning communities starting next fall. In addition to the already well-established International House and the Women, Science and Technology (WST) community, faculty have proposed 12 new communities focused around various topics, ranging from globalization to the ethics of human alteration.

The communities will be advised by faculty who will host weekly coffee hours centered around the Think Big topic and organize speakers and special field trips. A student advisory board will be formed in each community to work with the faculty member to make sure the programs live up to student expectations. Finally, the faculty will be actively involved in creating a social community within the halls.

Each community will be open to all non-first year students, regardless of major. “We want there to be a lot of diversity. Students can easily get focused on the specific things… within their studies, but it is important to branch out into other interests…. We hope students across disciplines with common interests can come together and all benefit from these communities,” said Dana Hartley, director of Undergraduate Studies.

The main goal of the 12 Think Big communities is to find a way to better connect students to the faculty, and reduce the disenfranchised feeling that hits students their sophomore year. “The number one thing that students will get from these [living-learning communities] is to learn that faculty are not spawned from alien pods… they are just the older, more wrinkled versions of the students,” said Pete Ludovice, CHBE professor and faculty leader of the Humor and Innovation Think Big community.

According to a survey conducted about the sophomore experience last year, students desire more interaction with faculty outside of the classroom setting. “I think it will be great to network with faculty and other students who share my interests,” said Kate Wharton, a first-year ISyE major who plans to apply for the WST community.

These communities will consist of 45 to 50 students living on a hall together, led by one faculty advisor. Except for I-House and the WST community, the Think Big communities will be dispersed between Woodruff Hall, North Avenue Apartments South and Center Street apartments. Students can request specific roommates within the Think Big halls, but only students who intend to be a part of the community will be allowed to live on those floors.

An extra $150 fee will be added to the cost of regular housing for participation in the communities. “The fee is an academic fee, not a housing fee, and it will be used to fund all of the programming and transportation to events for the communities… as well as supplementing the one month of summer pay that faculty will receive for leading the communities,” said Dan Morrison, director of Residential Life.

Students can start signing up for these communities online as soon they pay their housing prepayment. For complete descriptions of each of the communities offered, students should check out www.thinkbig.gatech.edu.