A smooth transition

Lindsey Reed

For Glasgow freshman Emily Russell, moving away from home for the first time has not been hard.

“I never thought I’d meet this many people,” she said.

Russell is one of the few selected freshman to participate in a new program at Bates-Runner Hall.

The newly renovated dorm houses the 142 freshman participating in the new Gateway Community program.

Russell was paired with her high school friend, Glasgow freshman Katie Gilson.

“When I found out I was living in the dorm, I was running around my room screaming,” Russell said. “I think we’re the only friends that planned to live together and both got in.”

The Gateway Community program was designed to help first-year students deal with the transition from high school to college.

Several events, such as a pancake breakfast that took place yesterday, are planned for the students living at Bates.

“Every program we do is to meet a need, and now making new friends is a need,” Hall Director Brad Shuck said.

A toga party, an open door party and a field day are all planned for this week.

Russell said she is looking forward to the “Taste of the Third Floor” party taking place on Thursday night. Residents will all cook something different and take a taste test tour around the floor.

“I’m making potato candy, which tastes like a gourmet dessert and looks like a peanut butter burrito,” Russell said.

Berea senior Tracey Anderkin is a desk manager at Bates.

“We’re really trying to build a strong community,” she said. “I’ve never seen a community like this in all my four years … I’ve never seen people bond like this.”

Students in the program are divided into six groups while attending two general education classes and a Freshman Seminar class together, said Tom Miles, co-director of the learning community and associate director of Housing and Residence Life.

An additional group has also been created since about a dozen students in the program have already received a general education course credit from CLEP credit or an AP exam, Miles said.

The renovation of Bates was a $4.5 million project, HRL Director Brian Kuster said.

Whitney Corn, a freshman from Boonville, Ind., lives in Bates and said she was shocked that she was picked to live in the renovated dorm.

“It’s so clean,” she said. “You don’t have to look at the floor and see it looking yellow.”

With the first choices on her housing application including McLean, Northeast, and Southwest, Corn said she was hoping to live in one of the better dorms on campus.

“I’ve seen Keen Hall and those absolutely disgust me,” she said.

Corn admits being spoiled. Bates is equipped with private bathrooms for every room and kitchens on each floor. The dorm even has a classroom built on the first floor for Freshman Seminar classes and study sessions.

The peer advisors program is a new concept involved with the community.

Miles said that the role of a peer advisor is similar to that of a resident assistant.

“They [peer advisors] will provide programming elements and do the judicial role of dealing with student conduct,” he said. “The major change is the peer advisors’ collaboration with faculty.”

The peer advisors are responsible for providing linkage to organizations on campus, Miles said.

“The peer advisors will spend more time with students, organize study groups and be more of a mentor,” Kuster said.

James Stevenson, a freshman from Cedar Hill, Tenn., is already happy with the role of the peer advisors.

“I like having someone on each floor that is just cool and helps out with the communication between people that don’t know each other,” he said. “You always have someone to talk to even if you don’t have friends.”

While residents will take some classes this fall with those living in Bates, they are free to take whatever they choose in the spring.

Miles said the program does not want to be too restrictive and make students feel like they are still in high school.

“The new program is beneficial because it will provide a comfortable academic environment where residents will know the people in class,” Shuck said.

Shuck explained that this type of program will especially help in a speech class, where apprehension will be high.

“In the gateway program, you’d live beside the people you’d be giving the speech to,” Shuck said.

Corn also appreciates the benefits of the program.

“If you miss a class or have any questions, you could always ask a neighbor,” she said.

Over 300 housing applications for the new dorm were received last March and sorted by a selection committee. From the answers and essays that the applications required, less than half were chosen.

“We’re keeping it small first semester on purpose,” Miles said.

Miles said a diverse population was chosen, including a 60-40 ratio of women to men and different race and ethnic backgrounds being represented. Rural and urban backgrounds were also considered.

“This is not a program for the ‘smarties’ … it’s for all students,” he said.

The committee chose students with high and low ACT scores to be a part of the program.

One of the first programs the freshmen in Bates will take part in is the “VIP Program,” in which each student is paired with a faculty or staff member via e-mail, according to Miles.

While the two groups will initially interact electronically, they will have an opportunity to meet face to face at a reception in a few weeks.

A “Gateway Leadership Council” is also being formed. It is like a traditional residence hall council with students planning activities with a budget, Miles said.

A variety of surveys and research studies will be conducted to test the impact of the gateway community.

Students will fill out a national satisfaction survey that is geared mostly toward housing and food services.

“It will let us know how we’re comparing nationally to institutions that are similar,” Miles said.

Long-term research will also be done to track students’ retention, persistence, graduation and GPA.

The new “National Study of Living Learning Communities” will also be used to measure and demonstrate how much the students involved have learned over the semester, Miles said.

The new gateway community may not be the only one of its kind at Western, according to Kuster.

“We’re actually planning a women’s studies community and a special interest group for science and business majors,” Kuster said.

Miles said there is no set model for what a community has to be or if it even has to be residential.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]