Elon University's newest residential complex is a place for students to grow into global citizens as faculty and staff members who reside on campus create programs that complement what young scholars learn in class.
A campus neighborhood two years in the making fully opens this fall on the shore of Lake Mary Nell where students will enjoy frequent opportunities – academic classes inside their residence halls, dinners with faculty, film festivals, guest speakers and more – to further engage each other about the knowledge and ideas they encounter in their courses.
The completed Global Neighborhood is the latest piece of a $100 million, multiyear residential campus initiative that bridges what all Elon University students learn in the classroom with what they discuss and debate in their campus homes.
The neighborhood features five residence halls – two of which have been open for a year – and a 50,000-square-foot commons building housing the Isabella Cannon Global Education Center, multimedia rooms, a digital theater, an organic tea cafe, academic offices for the Elon Core Curriculum and Project Pericles, and the Great Hall, a three-story space overlooking the lake large enough to fit the entire incoming class.
A distinctive centerpiece to the commons building is an illuminated spiral staircase allowing views of all three floors from nearly any vantage point in the center of the structure.
“It’s almost a three-dimensional directory to the building,” said Brad Moore, the university’s architect and director of planning, design and construction management. “Instead of having a sign pointing you to the Global Education Center, you can see the action happening on the third floor.”
With beds for 595 students, the neighborhood’s five “houses” include faculty apartments and living space for visiting international scholars. The Office of Residence Life relocated to the first floor of one building and the other four contain active classrooms reserved largely for COR 110: “The Global Experience” course all Elon students must complete.
The Global Neighborhood is home to several living-learning communities, designated floors where students with a common interest live together. Students are assigned to one of three room configurations: a four-person suite with two double rooms that share a living area and bathroom, a semi-suite with two single rooms that share a common living area and bathroom, or a traditional single that has an attached bedroom with a washer and dryer.
A kitchen is located on each floor as well as study rooms. At the end of each floor are “engagement spaces,” small lounges with furniture and tables that can serve as whiteboards.
“With all of the Global Neighborhood, we’re creating a destination,” Moore said. “We’re trying to create across campus the idea of ‘intellectual collisions’ where outside of your courses you might bump into a professor or classmate to continue conversations from class. The commons building is the highlight of this idea.”
Learning Where You Live
Assistant Professor Amy Allocco, the university’s distinguished emerging scholar of religious studies, is the lead faculty member in the neighborhood and moved to the complex last fall after previously living with students in the Isabella Cannon International Pavilion. Allocco will work in partnership with Rei Haycraft, assistant director of Residence Life, on academic and residential programming.
Allocco’s husband, Professor Brian Pennington in the Department of Religious Studies, is the new director of Elon University’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture & Society, and his arrival on campus in 2014-15 brings even more expertise and mentoring to Global Neighborhood students.
The trio will be joined by husband-and-wife team Vanessa Bravo, an assistant professor in the School of Communications, and Assistant Professor Mussa Idris in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, as well as Residence Life staff and a host of resident assistants, learning assistants for global studies courses, and cultural and linguistic mentors fluent in particular languages like Spanish and Italian.
A top priority is the formation of neighborhood and building identities, Allocco said. Students last fall unofficially named their houses for a major world river and the neighborhood itself is partnering with the North Carolina African Services Coalition, a Greensboro-based nonprofit that works with newly arrived refugee and immigrants.
That partnership takes the form of service opportunities such as food drives and youth mentoring, as well as enrichment activities like an October discussion that brings recent immigrants to campus to share stories and reflections on their journeys from Africa to the United States.
Allocco said the Global Neighborhood’s planned programs and dinners reflect the ethos of global citizenship the university instills in students. They also create moments for students to build upon classroom discussions in relaxed settings while respecting commitments to other extracurricular activities that characterize an Elon education.
“We have a very busy culture at Elon and students are high achievers with goals and ideas and activities they want to get involved with on their own,” Allocco said. “For us, we need to be articulate about the value of these neighborhood experiences, and really careful and transparent how we demonstrate the way these Global Neighborhood programs connect to Elon’s core mission and global citizenship.”
Bridging Classrooms with Residential Neighborhoods
The types of programs Allocco and Haycraft are scheduling won’t be limited to the Global Neighborhood as the university continues to implement a campus residential effort designed to bolster academic performance and strengthen student connections to the university.
In addition to the Global Neighborhood, three other residential areas housing first-year students have welcomed new faculty directors who will work with a trio of Residence Life assistant directors.
In Danieley Center, Assistant Professor Cara McFadden is working with Residence Life’s Jaimie Biermann on the neighborhood’s leadership and wellness focus. The Colonnades, which is heated and cooled by a geothermal field, is focused on sustainability initiatives and will be led by Associate Professor Alan Russell and Rike Habbel. Professor Nancy Midgette and Dani Gates lead the Historic Neighborhood with programs centered on the liberal arts and campus traditions.
Neighborhoods for first-year students are joined by Loy Center, The Oaks residential complex and The Stations at Mill Point, all serving returning students with themes centered on independent living, career readiness and post-graduate study.
Yet another unique residential component for the Class of 2018 are “linked” classes. Following last fall’s pilot efforts in the Global Neighborhood, students from the same campus neighborhoods will take select classes as a cohort, including two Core Curriculum First-Year Foundations courses, COR 110: “The Global Experience” and ENG 110: “Writing: Argument and Inquiry.”
“This is truly a partnership between Student Life and Academic Affairs,” said Jon Dooley, assistant vice president for Student Life and dean of campus life. “These programs and linked classes extend engaged learning outside of the class. They say that engaged learning happens on campus … and all of these things lead to greater levels of student success.”
For more information on Elon University’s Residential Campus Plan, visit elon.edu/residentialcampus.