Drinker House, home to thematic communities, once housed only upperclassmen. Due to changes in Lehigh's residence life, this building now hosts both upperclassmen and first-year students. (Erik Thomas/B&W Photo)

Residential changes made to build community, inclusive environment


When students told Courtney Stephens, the associate director of the Office of Residence Life, that they did not feel like they belonged at Lehigh and that they felt more alone as their college career progressed, she knew she needed to work to enhance on-campus living and make Lehigh a home for all students.

To promote inclusivity in the residential environment, the Office of Residence Life has developed a new model in which all students living in on-campus residence halls will be considered Live Lehigh residences.

Traditionally, Live Lehigh is a term associated with themed residence halls, such as Umoja, CHOICE and Live.Learn.Serve. The Office of Residence Life staff want all students who choose to live on campus to feel like they are “living Lehigh,” whether they are living in a themed community, a Greek house or a first-year residence hall.

“I look forward to seeing how the new model takes form,” Head Gryphon Anna D’Ginto, ’16, wrote in an email. “I am disappointed that I am graduating and won’t be a part of it, but I can’t wait to come back next year and see how everyone is living Lehigh.”

In addition to changing the meaning of Live Lehigh, the office is changing the structure of some of its residence halls. Starting next year, first-year students, as well as upperclassmen, can live in Taylor, Drinker, Richards and Centennial I. The purpose of placing upperclassmen and first-year students together is to minimize the large divide that the CORE report recognized between Greek and non-Greek students last year.

“A lot of feedback that we’ve gotten from students is that even if they’re not going Greek, they still want to feel like they belong to something,” Stephens said. “By having freshmen and upperclassman together, we’re diversifying the experience so that non-Greek members can still be active residents and participants within their residential community.”

Ashley Lemmons, the director of the Office of Residence Life, believes allowing first-year students to live with upperclassmen will be mutually beneficial. Upperclassmen will have the opportunity to take on leadership roles within their residence hall as they interact with and guide first-year students.

There will also be more themed housing options available to upperclassmen. These new housing options will offer increased interaction with professors and staff members.

“I’m not talking about lectures in a residence hall,” Lemmons said. “I’m talking about a beyond the classroom experience. Whether that is sitting down for coffee and having a conversation with them about health care, or getting on a bus and going to New York to see a Broadway play.”

According to Lemmons, several universities are starting to implement this type of housing, in which faculty live in residence halls, or there is increased interaction between faculty and students.

“In some ways, it’s like going back to the future,” Lemmons said. “A lot of the Ivy Leagues do this and have done this since day one. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and MIT have always had residential hall models where faculty live with them.”

The staff at the Office of Residence Life recognizes that this model is successful nationally in promoting inclusivity and creativity within residence halls. There is high expectation that the new housing model will not only provide students with a welcoming environment but also more opportunities for leadership and personal development.

“We’re excited to be here,” Stephens said. “We want everyone to have a great college experience and we want people to be excited about this. We want people to find a home here and we have a good confidence — with research and experience — that if we do this correctly, Lehigh is going to be a really strong home and that’s the biggest thing.”

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