House 104, currently the Fit Living community, is one of the many themed housing options at Lehigh that offer housing for students. More students are opting to live in themed residential communities to grow academically and explore interests, passions and hobbies. (Jane Henderson/B&W Staff)

Themed housing grows in popularity, plans to expand


Themed housing communities at Lehigh are expanding with higher student participation rates and more options.

Previously called Live Lehigh communities, President John Simon said the university has seen an increase in themed community applications. Since the fall of 2015, four new communities have been initiated by students.

Courtney Stephens, the associate director of residence life, said themed housing communities provide students with the opportunity to live and learn together alongside other students with similar passions and interests.

Simon said the office’s philosophy is accomplished by considering every space on campus an opportunity to “Live Lehigh” by encouraging students to get involved in their residential communities, explore their interests and learn outside of the classroom.

This past December, the Residence Life Office surveyed all students living in themed housing communities. The survey said 67 percent of students felt a higher sense of belonging in their themed community than they did in their residential community the previous year.

Simon said the Office of Residence Life has also seen an increase in interest in first-year communities. The STEM community in Taylor experienced a 300 percent increase in participants.

Stephens said there are currently five first-year, 10 upperclassmen and three mixed-year themed communities.

To apply for first-year themed communities, Stephens said incoming students indicate their interest on their housing applications before arriving at Lehigh. A Lehigh staff or faculty member serves as an adviser to each community and helps residents organize events such as group meals, outside speaker events and off-campus trips.

For upperclassmen themed communities, Stephens said the application is open every year for students to apply. Students must find an adviser, market their community and recruit and sustain the number of residents required for their physical space. For example, if a particular building has 13 beds, a themed community requires 13 residents.

Victoria McCulley, ’19, was a member of the Arts Alive community when it was first enacted her freshman year.

Having participated in arts programs in high school, McCulley said she wanted to stay involved with something she was passionate about and connect with other people who had similar interests.

“I met two really close friends and one of my best friends and my boyfriend through Arts Alive,” McCulley said. “(Themed housing communities are) a really good thing that Lehigh has developed just in order to make (students) feel more comfortable, because coming into college is terrifying.”

McCulley said her favorite part about the community was how involved its members were. Her faculty adviser, the director of Zoellner Arts Center, took residents to shows where they were able to meet the performers afterward.

Stephens said the office is focused on diversifying the residence hall experience within existing halls, rather than in dorms on the Hill. She said the Residence Life Office is always looking to expand to other fields of study and student interests.

Simon said Lehigh’s themed housing will continue to grow and expand in the coming years.

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.

Leave A Reply