Dorms to get ‘themed living options’ in fall semester

Shawntaye Hopkins

Fitness. Diversity. Leadership.

Students with trouble finding others who share their interests may find themselves only doors away from one another next year.

HRL will offer “themed living options” to students living on campus next fall. Housing officials say it will enhance the campus living experience and make them feel more involved.

“Students who are more engaged and involved graduate in higher numbers,” HRL director Brian Kuster said. The goal of the themed living options program is to create an environment similar to the one in the Leadership and Wellness community program in Poland Hall and the Gateway Community program in Bates-Runner Hall, Kuster said.

“We started looking at these when we started renovations, because the ultimate goal is to create these kinds of living conditions,” he said.

Six themes have already been developed. The honors program will remain in Rodes-Harlin Hall. The other options are Health and Fitness, Mosaic, Leadership Development, Women of Western and Academic Enhancement.

The amount of space allotted for a particular theme will depend on the number of students interested, Kuster said.

Some themes may just have students living in six rooms, while others may take up entire dorms, he said.

The resident assistants in the program will invite speakers and have programs and workshops relating to the themes, Kuster said.

Lynne Holland, HRL assistant director, agreed that students are more likely to succeed if they are surrounded by people with similar interests.

“What we are trying to do is make a big university small,” she said.

The options created are issues that interest students and will attract them to the campus, Holland said.

HRL began with 12 themed living options before narrowing them down to six, she said.

But these are only the beginning.

After the program starts, students will be asked for their input and will have an opportunity to suggest other themes, Kuster said.

“This is kind of an added feature for students that aren’t able to get into totally renovated dorms,” he said.

Erin Westfall, a sophomore from Breese, Ill., said she enjoys living among other honors students in Rodes.

Westfall said the academic theme allows her to make friends with students in her classes.

But she said she believes students will also be interested in the program.

“I don’t know if it would make more people want to be in the dorms,” Westfall said. “But I think it will be neat to live with more people who you have common interests with.”

Kuster said the various themes will be available mainly in the coed high-rise buildings, such as Bemis Lawrence Hall and Barnes-Campbell Hall.

Themes such as Women at Western will be offered in single-sex dorms, Kuster said.

More information about themed living options will be included in housing applications in March.

“This is just the beginning,” Holland said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]