There are couches and comfy chairs, sunlight pouring in from floor-to-ceiling windows, and engaged, lively discussion.

Walking into a classroom at UNCG’s Ashby Residential College – the oldest of its kind in the state – feels a little bit like being transported to a small liberal arts school.

It’s a close-knit community where undergraduate students can build relationships with professors, draw connections across classes, and engage with one another through co-curricular offerings.

“We have a long history of creating an environment that really fosters students’ intellectual and social growth,” said Dr. Sara Littlejohn, program chair of UNCG’s Ashby and Strong residential colleges. “The premise is that students have more success when they have productive relationships with faculty.”

Since 1970, UNCG’s residential college community has grown to include three colleges with different themes. Ashby focuses on digital communication and ethical engagement, students in Strong explore all aspects of sustainability and Grogan is designed for students in UNCG’s professional schools.

Students in the two-year program take courses that correspond with the theme of their residential college, and they also have the opportunity to complete all of their general education requirements through the program.

“Our students take English 101 with the people they know and live with,” said Dr. Christine Flood, associate program chair of Ashby. “As a result, talking about class and what they’ve learned becomes a natural part of the living experience.”

Faculty members from a variety of disciplines collaborate closely with each another so that students can explore common themes across their coursework. The community has one live-in faculty member, while other professors have offices in the residence halls.

And that’s what makes the residential college community so unique. It’s not themed housing – it’s a completely integrated learning experience.

For Samata Allen, a psychology major with a minor in drama, Ashby was a key factor in his successful transition to life as a college student.

“I came to UNCG with only one friend from high school, and I had never really left home for an extended period of time,” he said. “At first it felt lonely, but this community gives you a sense of security and support.”

History major Heaven Rogers has found the same kind of academic and social support in Ashby. She also values the diversity of the community, and the way her professors encourage all viewpoints to be shared.

“The majority of our classes are discussion-oriented. We’re trying to open our minds to other ways of thinking,” she said.

Littlejohn is the first to tell you that UNCG’s residential colleges are not for everyone – they require a deep commitment to interdisciplinary learning and social engagement. But for many, the community is just what they need to be successful.

“This is the way to have a small liberal arts college experience inside the context of a large public research university,” she said.

What does she hope students will take away? Strong critical thinking skills.

“At the very least, we want them to leave asking a lot of ‘Why?’”

Want to learn more? Visit utlc.uncg.edu/residentialcolleges.

 

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications