In the months and years ahead, members of the Class of 2013 and other current students will share a historic distinction: they will be the first group to experience the changes that will be felt and seen throughout the campus as Rensselaer embarks on implementing the “CLASS” initiative.
“Clustered Learning, Advocacy and Support for Students” aims to transform the student experience by elevating the quality of support for students throughout the undergraduate years. Clusters of residence halls, called commons, are being developed in order to create smaller, more tightly knit student communities. These commons will be supported by faculty, student life professionals, and upperclass and graduate student assistants living in or near each of the clusters of residence halls.
“Excellence in education requires constant improvement in the quality of student life, and Rensselaer is fully committed to making the student experience livelier and more engaging,” said Eddie Ade Knowles, vice president for student life.
Building on the success of Rensselaer’s award-winning First-Year Experience, the CLASS initiative paves the way for the Institute to further improve the overall student life experience. In the fall of 2010, as an extension of the First-Year Experience, the Institute will phase in the Sophomore Year Experience, in which all sophomores will live on the Troy campus, or in fraternities or sororities that meet university standards and have signed on to partner with Rensselaer. The goal of the program is to provide students with a greater sense of belonging and community at Rensselaer.
Throughout a student’s entire time at Rensselaer, each class will be supported by a team of Residence Life cluster assistant deans, upperclass and graduate student staff, faculty residential commons deans, and a class dean. This will ensure that every student knows where to turn for help, and receives the best individual counseling, mentoring, and personal attention that Rensselaer has to offer. There also will be commons dean positions for Greek Life and off-campus living.
The Office of Residence Life has reached its goal of hiring 75 upperclass students who will serve as resident assistants. Based on a national search, in the coming weeks, several candidates will be interviewed for the assistant dean of the residential commons position, specifically the Howard N. Blitman, P.E. ’50 Residence Commons, and a class dean position. The assistant dean will be responsible for managing residence hall activities, and class deans will be responsible for overseeing class specific programs and affinity group development.
To begin the process and explore innovative ways to implement a residential college model at Rensselaer, last summer a delegation from the Institute conducted campus visits to Yale, Dartmouth, Middlebury, the University of Pennsylvania, and Lehigh to meet with campus administrators and learn more about their academic, curricular, residential, and co-curricular programs.
According to Knowles, the information gathered from the site visits and lessons learned from observations provided the foundation for the development of the Rensselaer residential college model. The paradigm shift creates a new model of residence life that essentially embraces Rensselaer students regardless of where they live, on-campus, in Greek Life houses, or in off-campus privately owned residences.
This fall, Rensselaer opened the Howard N. Blitman, P.E. ’50 Residence Commons after a conversion of the former Best Western Rensselaer Inn. Blitman Commons expands the housing options for Rensselaer upperclass students. Under the terms of a long-term lease agreement, Polytech Apartments now houses Rensselaer upperclass students. Also, construction is under way to create three-bedroom apartments in Hall Hall and Crockett Hall that will serve as new living spaces for assistant deans and their families.
“The residential commons approach is a transformational initiative that will, over time, increase the overall quality of the student experience and further enhance our market position as a university of first-choice,” Knowles said.
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