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Integrating the residential experience and the liberal arts

Create a Distinctive Residential Environment by Promoting Greater Integration of the Residential Experience and the Values of the Liberal Arts

People come to work at Lycoming because they truly want to make an impact in the lives of college students and forge bonds that last a lifetime. Our faculty and staff are particularly strong at developing meaningful interactions with students on campus; however, these interactions frequently are confined to the academic centers of campus life. In order to create a distinctive residential liberal arts experience, we believe such connections must be encouraged throughout all aspects of our students' education.

Lycoming College seeks to create a distinctive residential environment that bridges the gap between the residential and curricular lives of students. We propose to create living-learning communities built around intellectual interests that derive from the curriculum, a robust outdoor educational program, an intercollegiate athletic program that is more intentional about how it contributes to the educational experience of student athletes, and facilities that appropriately support this vision. We seek to forge a residential campus identity that serves as a point of distinction.

We anticipate that this transformed residential environment will not only enhance student learning but will also strengthen the College’s ability to compete for an even more talented and accomplished student body.

Achieving this transformed residential environment may require the construction of new facilities and will entail careful planning for how to leverage faculty resources without adversely impacting the College’s pursuit of greater academic excellence. Therefore, we will develop this transformed residential environment in carefully planned stages.

Strategy 1: Create a distinctive residential system that integrates the life of the mind into the student living environments

Under the fully worked out model for a transformed residential environment, we envision that the final three years of the Lycoming residential experience will extend and complement the first-year experience. We also expect that students will assume more responsibility for making learning a continued part of their residential life. That vision will be implemented by creating a system of robust, student-directed affinity housing arrangements for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

As a first step in this direction, an initial group of intellectual affinity clusters will be established in Wesley Hall. The residential life task force is also charged with devising a process for selecting the themes (e.g. Social Justice, Sustainability) around which the clusters are organized but, as much as possible, affinity opportunities should be student directed in their conception, management, and governance. The task force should also consider the establishment of student house managers and how faculty can have a meaningful role as mentors and advisers to students participating in affinity houses.

Tactic: Remodel Wesley Hall so that it supports and accommodates communities that integrate the values of liberal learning into the residential environment.

A working group has collaborated with an architectural firm to develop a renovation plan for Wesley Hall that transforms the building into one that supports living learning communities. The renovations will include multi-use space that will allow faculty to hold seminars within the residential setting as well as common spaces where community activities can take place. Faculty members willing to participate in this program will also be allocated funds to support activities that bring intellectual life into the residential environment.

Tactics:

Construct additional apartment style residential housing for upper class students.

Convene a task force to study the timing for renovating additional residential facilities, including Skeath, Asbury and East Halls.

In 2015, as the College fully implements the new general education curriculum, the administration will create first-year seminar learning communities.

In Fall 2015, also implement an initial group of intellectual affinity clusters in Wesley Hall.

During the summer of 2016, we will assess our progress in creating a distinctive residential environment and recommend next steps.

Strategy 2: Educate the whole person by investing in programs that develop the body, mind, and spirit of students who attend the College

Athletic competition and outdoor recreational sports are among the features of residential colleges that seek to educate the whole person and develop character. Through the physical activity inherent in these activities students come to value a healthy body. Both experiences also offer the opportunity to absorb lessons of leadership and to appreciate the contributions of others. Through outdoor recreation, students can also learn to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of nature.

Tactic: Create a first-rate outdoor education program that strengthens Lycoming’s focus on educating the whole person and takes advantage of opportunities presented by the College’s geographic location.

Lycoming College is well located among outstanding outdoor venues, and we believe that harnessing this potential could be an effective way to create a point of distinction for the College. Our natural surroundings allow for activities such as hiking, road and mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing, fly fishing, and backpacking. Creating a more robust outdoor educational program will promote the health and well-being of our student body in ways that will augment the increased intramural and recreational activities associated with the Recreation Center.

Tactic: Strengthen the educational impact of the intercollegiate athletic program.

A significant percentage of the undergraduate student body—more than one-third— participates in intercollegiate athletics. For this reason intercollegiate sports present a great opportunity for educating the whole person and developing character. Through athletics, students can learn many values integral to the liberal arts, including different leadership styles, the value of teamwork, and respect for others even while engaged in competition. Athletics is also one venue where students develop character traits such as integrity and perseverance. It can also be an arena where participants learn about adherence to standards of personal and civic behavior.

Strategy 3: Consider constructing new facilities and/or renovating existing buildings to create the physical infrastructure to support the distinctive residential environment proposed in this Plan.

The proposed residential environment may require the renovation of current facilities such as the Wertz Student Center or the construction of new buildings. The nature of the proposed activities and the associated interactions may require physical spaces that are significantly different from what currently exists.

Answering these questions requires the development of a campus enhancement and facilities use plan. This process will position the College’s leadership to make better informed decisions about the possibility of a new student center, the renovation of the Wertz Student Center, the renovation of additional residence halls, or the construction of more apartment style upper class housing.

Tactic: During 2014-15, we will engage the services of a master plan consultant to guide the institution through this process.

We anticipate multiple positive outcomes from building the residential environment described in this section of the plan. Among other things, it builds upon an historic strength of the college—the impact of faculty-student interactions in transforming lives and preparing students for their futures. Students will have access to robust residential education and wellness programs that encourage individual social and intellectual development and community building as well as opportunities for academic exploration outside the classroom. We also expect that the improved facilities, appealing programs, and expanded forms of faculty interaction will strengthen the College’s market position. Finally, the programs will strengthen the liberal arts principles at the core of our mission and create a distinctive Lycoming education.