First a brief note: When Hereford decided to revamp its website, we also decided to try something new—a Principal’s blog. Each blog will not be long, and they may be more sporadic than I would like, but I’m willing to try to commit to communicating with the Hereford community through the blog. If you would like to provide feedback on the blogs, feel free to shoot me an email ([email protected]) and we’ll arrange a time to meet and talk.

Now, for the first blog!

By way of introduction, I am the Principal of Hereford Residential College, beginning my tenure in August 2018. However, I have been more-or-less immersed in the world of residential colleges for two decades. I am a professor of higher education, a field that studies colleges and universities. In particular, I study undergraduates, and more specifically, I study the impact of participation in living-learning communities on undergraduate student outcomes. Residential Colleges enjoy a long and prestigious history in higher education around the world and throughout history, but they also represent one type of living-learning community, or a residential space for students that strives to intentionally integrate students’ intellectual and social worlds.

From 2003-2007, I developed and was the Principal Investigator of the National Study of Living-Learning Programs (NSLLP), which in totality surveyed approximately 50,000 undergraduates across the U.S. at over 50 colleges and universities in over 600 different living-learning communities (LLCs). In 2008, the NSLLP conducted 4 site visits at high-performing LLCs at 4 different universities. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation, ACPA College Student Educators International, NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and the Association of College & University Housing Officers International.

In 2018, along with my co-authors Jody Jessup-Anger, Mimi Benjamin, and Matthew Wawrzynski, I published the book, Living-Learning Communities that Work: A Research-Based model for Design, Delivery, and Assessment, which represented the culmination of my research on LLCs but also what we recommend as best practices for LLC leaders and staff. The book features a best practices model, and some of the key points of the model stipulate that effective LLCs must:

  • Have clear goals and objectives from which all other aspects of their programming emanate
  • Feature a collaboration between Housing/Residence Life units and an academic unit, but the essence of that collaboration varies by institutional culture and history
  • Have adequate resources, which includes financial, physical, and human resources
  • Offer courses for academic credit
  • Incorporate faculty in their communities, especially in advising capacities
  • Foster supportive academic and social residence hall climates
  • Include co-curricular programming consistent with their goals and objectives
  • Integrate all of the above components into one cohesive structure

Yet, when I began as Hereford’s Principal last fall, it was time to put my money where my mouth was, and see if our best practices model held up in the real world. After a year on the job, while I’m delighted to say that many aspects of the model do hold up, I am also humbled by the lessons I have learned about the challenges of running an LLC. As I conclude my first year as Principal, I can honestly say that this work is the hardest work I have ever done in my professional career, but also the most rewarding.