Residential communities help students thrive
By Amy Loeffler
The building that first-year student Meg Beatty lives in might look similar to other residence halls made from Hokie Stone on campus. But as a resident of the Da Vinci Residential Learning Community in Lee Hall, she has a support network that goes well beyond the strength of the stone walls.
“It’s been really helpful to live here as a food science and technology major,” said Beatty of Blacksburg, Va. “If you have a question about what’s going on in chemistry lab, you can go down the hall and someone’s probably working on the same problem.”
Da Vinci is one of several residential communities where students are clustered according to academic or personal interests. Virginia Tech offers four types of living-learning communities. Da Vinci was founded as the Biological and Life Sciences Community and is an interactive learning environment designed to help students succeed in first-year science courses, including general chemistry and principles of biology.
Living in Da Vinci has made all the difference to sophomore Nicole Kirkwood’s personal and academic growth at Virginia Tech.
“There’s a really unique support system in Da Vinci,” said Kirkwood, a biochemistry major from Mechanicsville, Va. “When tests come up and when there are final exams, everyone is understanding about time constraints. The night before a test, you can anticipate the hallway being quiet. There’s a mutual respect between your hallmates.”
It’s not all about hitting the books though. Social activities are seen as another avenue for student engagement. This year’s residents participated in the quintessential Hokie hike to Cascade Falls, kickball, and a gingerbread house competition.
Kirkwood is also a mentor this year and represents one of the layers of support that helps the students who live in Da Vinci adjust to the challenges of college life. As a mentor, she is available to a group of four to five first-year students as the first line of defense when they have questions, concerns, or need encouragement.
Similar to the Da Vinci Living-Learning Community is the Residential Leadership Community. Eric Kaufman, associate professor of agricultural and extension education, is a leadership and social change advisor to students in the community.
“My department really values the opportunities that come with residential living,” said Kaufman.
The leadership and social change minor is often used to complement studies related to food systems because of the need for agricultural leaders to work as agents of change in communities where they reside.
“Facilitating connections for students helps them thrive at Virginia Tech,” Kaufman said. “It also shows them that they do fit in here and it assists in student retention.”