Older students may remember when first-year students and upperclassmen lived in strictly separate dorms. Richards House was a first-year dorm and Drinker House was for upperclassmen, for example. Now, however, students from various class years can live in some of the same buildings.
“Since we began the expansion in 2016, students from multiple years can now live together in Upper Cents, Richards, Drinker, Taylor and the U-House,” Ashley Lemmons, the director of Residence Life, wrote in an email.
The reason for integrating first-year students and upperclassmen is to bridge the large divide between various groups on campus, a problem indicated in the CORE report. Lemmons said that students should be able to find a community within Lehigh that they call home.
Keenan Overa, ’21, lives in Drinker and said there is a healthy balance of first-years and upperclassmen in the building. He believes that when students from multiple class years live together, the environment benefits everyone involved.
“It’s nice to have someone in relative proximity that can offer advice and experience that could benefit new students,” Overa said. “It’s better than having a dorm full of freshmen that are lost and aren’t entirely sure what to do.”
Integrated housing also gives students more opportunities to meet other like-minded students.
Overa said he has friends who are upperclassmen who he otherwise wouldn’t have met if they didn’t live down the hall from him because they are involved in different communities on campus.
Arturo Alejandro, ’20, lived in Taylor during the 2016-17 school year with other first-years and upperclassmen. He agrees that the new integrated housing can be beneficial, especially regarding classes.
“I used (the upperclassmen) as an extra resource in my classes,” Alejandro said. “If I ever had a question, I would walk down the hall and ask for help.”
Alejandro noticed it took some time for students to begin talking to people from other class years. He said getting comfortable with others and taking similar classes helped bridge the gap.
Both students see gaining advice as a one of the biggest benefits. Overa said he has seen positive interactions between students of different class years in Drinker.
Themed communities exist in almost all housing options across campus. Though not every student living in a dorm is part of an official “Live Lehigh” community, “living Lehigh” is something the Office of Residence Life continues to promote.
“The Office of Residence Life wants everyone to ‘live Lehigh,'” Lemmons wrote, “whether they live in a residence hall, theme community or fraternity/sorority house.”
Overa said he lives near the Global Lehigh community, which allows him to interact with international students and gain cultural awareness.
“There’s about seven different languages spoken on a daily basis, and it’s interesting to see how everyone reacts to others’ (culture),” he said.
This ties into a goal of the Office of Residence Life to diversify students’ experiences and enable them to be more active in their communities.
“This model is mutually beneficial,” Lemmons wrote, “as upper-class students have the chance to live in their theme community, where they found that sense of belonging in their first year, and then take on leadership and mentorship roles in their second year.”