An update from Miroslava Detcheva, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the McElvaney Residential Community:

Why do we need the Residential Commons? This is a question many students have asked me. Personally, I see the Residential Commons (RCs) as melting pots of academic interests, unique talents, and ever-growing cultural diversity that will shape and mold excellent scholars and well-rounded individuals. In the new communities, students will be able to interact with peers from all academic disciplines and diverse backgrounds. They will also connect on a more personal level with enthusiastic faculty willing to mentor and share unique life experiences.

As we are getting ready for the grand opening of the Residential Commons, some students have questioned the transformation of campus living. As many students have had wonderful experiences while being a part of the Engineering, Hill Top or Hunt Scholars communities, they are in their right to question the changes. No doubt, sharing experiences with like-minded scholars is beneficial as one grows in his or her particular field of study. However, exchanging ideas across academic disciplines and unique personal experiences is invaluable when it comes to building a strong and integrated yet diverse residential community in which every individual is equally valuable and important. This is what the RC program is going to achieve – it will provide the environment for both academic and personal support.

In a formal classroom setting, no matter how interactive the course may be, the intellectual exchange is limited to the subject taught. Furthermore, interaction between students and professors, to a great extent, is constrained by the traditional professor’s duties of teaching, examining and evaluating students. In actuality, there is a great interest among faculty to expand the intellectual exchange and learning process beyond this traditional student/teacher interaction.

My personal college experience was truly enriched by professors who in addition to being great teachers in the classroom, continued to teach me about “the world” outside the classroom walls. The professors who make the extra effort to be mentors are the ones that “touch lives” in addition to teaching new skills and helping students succeed academically.

Within the Commons, faculty and students will be on the same team working together to shape exciting new living and learning communities. This time, the learning process will be a two-way street, and faculty will have the opportunity to learn from students as well. What better way to gain access to student mindset and thus improve communication and efficiency of teaching? Finally, the assessment will consist not only of grades and averages, but also of meaningful experiences and continuous personal enrichment.

The future Residential Commons will offer a great variety of intellectually stimulating academic activities and engaging social events. The engineer will learn from the artist, and the artist will learn from the engineer. We do not all have the same interests, but we can all benefit from being exposed to different ideas and from being a part of a community that cultivates an understanding for different points of view and an appreciation for diversity. The RCs will definitely make our campus a more exciting place. In addition, this model of living and learning is also the path to shaping well- rounded individuals and global citizens of today’s interconnected world.