Anna-Catherine Kueng ~ Assistant Editor
For sophomores, juniors, and senior students, the University of Lynchburg offers Special Interest Housing, which are living and learning communities in Southside housing. The Assistant Director of Residential Learning Communities, Courtney M. Kelsey, said, “It offers group of students the opportunity to create unique, self-directed living environments, centered on a common theme.”
Kristen Cooper, Director of Residence Life, added, “These communities are designed with specific learning outcomes and goals that help contribute to a student’s learning through active participation. The Special Interest House residents will have the specific benefit of serving together to positively impact the campus and greater community through service learning opportunities.”
For fall 2019, the Office of Housing and Residence Life staff is planning to implement new changes to the Special Interest Housing process and requirements. These changes will put a greater emphasis on academic engagement, service, and learning.
“The Office of Housing and Residence Life is committed to the growth and development of our residential students. As we make plans for a new residence hall, we are in the process of creating intentional residential learning communities that will contribute to the success, satisfaction, and learning of our residential students,” said Cooper.
In regards to academic engagement, the first change for next year is that all group applicants need a QPA of at least 2.5 and a grade report will be required for each member after applications are submitted.
According to Kelsey, the second change is that groups must select a “broad service topic that will serve as the theme of their Special Interest Housing that will be developed in collaboration with a community partner. The service project cannot be in conjunction with an existing service project that the organization is already sponsoring.”
The third change is that students need to do twelve service hours in both the fall and spring semester. Four of the hours have to be completed with all residence members, but the other eight hours can be done individually. At the beginning of the semester, a service plan outline must be submitted by group members. Kelsey emphasized, “All group members will be expected to actively engage and complete the service hours requirement for each semester.”
The fourth change is that at the end of fall and spring semester, reflection assignments must be submitted, “articulating the accomplishments of the service plan and the group member’s connection between their service experiences, academic learning, and life goals, and an evaluation of their individual and group progress toward the learning and service goals for the project,” explained Kelsey.
According to Kelsey, the final change is that “all group members will be expected to present a brief presentation at the end of the Spring semester highlighting their service project, impact on self and community, goals achieved, and lessons learned.”
Although there are changes for the upcoming school year, the following requirements have not changed, as noted by Kelsey, “groups must be comprised of 3-10 students, all group applicants must be part of recognized organizations or supported academic programs at the University of Lynchburg, students must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours, group applicants must be in good standing with the University, and Special Interest Housing may be gender inclusive.”
For those who are interested in applying for Special Interest Housing, group applications are due on Monday, March 18, by 5:00 p.m.. On Wednesday, March 20, and Thursday, March 21, interviews will be held for groups. The interviews are offered on a 30 minute slot schedule. On Friday, March 22, all applicants will receive an email regarding acceptance.
“We hope that students will see this opportunity [Special Interest Housing] as a transformational experience – one that helps students to learn more about themselves, their values and interests, and how that all connects with their career interests and passions. It’s truly meant to be a self-directed learning experience where students take the wheel and guide their learning. We hope students will want to take advantage of this opportunity and see the internal and external benefits,” said Kelsey.