Honors College LLC To Transition To Residential College

Nov. 6, 2007

Beginning with the fall 2008 semester, Baylor University's Honors College Living-Learning Center will transition into an Honors Residential College, becoming the university's second traditional residential college to offer Baylor students of all academic majors a distinctive living-learning environment that is faculty-led.

The Honors College and Campus Living & Learning made the announcement Monday.

The Honors Residential College will be home to 320 men and women, who will reside in Memorial and Alexander residence halls. As with Brooks Residential College, students make an initial two-year commitment to enter as freshmen. Already, nearly 50 percent of students currently residing in the Honors College LLC have contracted to return next year.

Honors College and Campus Living and Learning officials said residential colleges are especially attractive to students who are looking for a four-year residential experience that integrates their curricular and co-curricular lives.

Dr. Sarah-Jane Murray, assistant professor of medieval literature and French, already serving as a faculty member in residence, will transition into the role of faculty master. As part of her role as faculty master, Murray will convene and coordinate the community dinners; host lectures, study breaks and Master's Teas, where students will have the opportunity to talk with Baylor faculty and other guests; encourage a climate of academic excellence and community engagement; and encourage faculty involvement in all aspects of the college's activities. Murray will continue to reside in the faculty apartment in Memorial Hall.

"For the past five years, we have been working to ensure that Baylor's faculty are embedded in the campus residential experience," said Dr. Frank Shushok Jr., dean for student learning and engagement at Baylor. "Faculty members in residence, faculty partners and faculty participation in residence hall programs are all evidence to this end. The faculty master, however, communicates something more. We not only want faculty participation in residential life at Baylor, we want them to help lead the experience as well."

"We are already engaged in many of the activities that are constitutive of the residential college model," said Dr. Thomas S. Hibbs, dean of the Honors College and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture. "Taking this formal step will enable us to build an even stronger sense of community among students, faculty and staff and to continue to bridge the gap between academic life and student life. The students themselves, who contribute much to our planning and decision-making, have been very enthusiastic about this move."

Murray said she believes the transition to a residential college model is the next logical step for the Honors College LLC, where students already benefit from extensive community programming, including a lecture series, faculty-in-residence teas, movie nights, a monthly Dr Pepper Hour and community dinners. More than 250 guests participated in the first Sunday dinner this year, and attendance at lectures often exceeds 80 to 100 students.

"It's quite amazing just what a strong sense of community we all have in Memorial and Alexander Halls," Murray said. "I'm excited to see so many upper-classmen returning for the fall of 2008. They will provide valuable mentoring to our younger members. I'm honored to be part of this engaging community."

Murray credits a large part of the Honors College LLC's success to the efforts of her colleagues: Anna Shaw, programming director; Meredith Conrey, residence hall director; Petra Carey, public relations coordinator for the Honors College; and Brett Gibson, a theology student at Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary who serves as resident chaplain.

"Everything we undertake here is a team effort. We constantly challenge one another to do better, and that's an exciting environment in which to work. Our student leadership--from the Leadership Council to the Community Leaders--is extraordinary. Any community is only as good as its members and the time and energies they invest in it," she said.

"We are grateful to Frank Shushok for his leadership in this area and for the wonderful collegiality between staff and faculty and particularly for the service and vision of Anna Shaw, Meredith Conrey, Petra Carey, Brett Gibson and Professor Murray," Hibbs said.

Murray said she hopes that the number of students participating in residential communities, from Engaged Learning Groups to residential colleges and Living-Learning Centers, will increase over the years to come.

"This is a tremendous way to be involved and get the most out of what the Baylor campus, its faculty and students have to offer. I believe every student at Baylor ought to have the chance to belong to one of these groups, if they wish to," she added.

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