By ANDREW ARENAS
Residence life recently unveiled major changes to its housing options for the upcoming academic year. Special interest housing is now an option, which includes themed living communities, language communities and gender neutral housing. A new feature called flexible housing was also introduced, which gives students housing agreements, regardless of sex or gender.
This also includes changes to housing assignments in the fall 2017 semester. Applying for a dorm can now take place from the second week of the semester to the middle of November. In the spring, housing assignment changes can take place the second week of the semester through the first week of April. The objective of these changes is to add more flexibility for housing decisions.
The flexible housing and the overall cost of meal plans were the top factors in getting part time students to reside on campus. These new options are available to students that are taking nine credit hours.
Christine Porter, the director of residence life stated that these changes have been in development for well over a decade. Residence Life considered what other institutions in the state were doing while making these changes. She contacted other Residence Life directors in the state of Virginia to see what changes worked and what didn’t work.
Residence life wanted to make sure that word of these changes and additions were clear to current and upcoming students. Res Life added sections to Mary Washington’s website, put posters in residence halls and sent out emails detailing the changes. Porter hopes to have as little confusion among students as possible.
“The ability of living with who I want to live with is very important to us and remains a top priority for us,” Porter said. She wants to make it clear to students that more options are being presented to them rather than being taken away.
Porter also considered what non-residential students are looking for if they want to move on campus. She mentioned data research, surveys and the FSEM program played a major role in deciding what needed to be improved. Res Life has been fine-tuning the FSEM program for years based on student feedback.
“We at Residence Life ask ourselves ‘is the student experience here at Mary Washington the way we want it to be?’” Porter said. There is also a lot of thought that goes into making sure students have as many options for housing as possible.
Students that share similar academic interests with each other can take advantage of themed housing options as well. One of the themed housing options is specially tuned for science majors. A student majoring in biology can live with someone studying in physics or chemistry to think outside of his own discipline. “The ability to choose who you want to live with is very important and I believe that the changes have been pretty well received by students,” said junior sociology major Joemmel Tendilla.
There is also an option called ‘no man’s land’ which is a themed housing with all-women that look to honor Mary Washington’s history. UMW’s themed housing communities (T.L.C) are for upper class students to further grow academically outside of the classroom.
“We are very excited about all of these changes and new additions and the enthusiasm among students is felt and appreciated,” Porter said. It has encouraged students to finish their housing applications on time and not put it off.