Goucher, like all institutions of higher education, has one main purpose: to transform students.
The college’s faculty and staff have dedicated a lot of time this summer to reflecting on what it means to learn and be transformed and why students thrive best in on-campus living-learning communities.
Town hall meetings and small, informal conversations on these subjects have been informed by President José Antonio Bowen’s recommended reading for all faculty and staff: Transforming Students: Fulfilling the Promise of Higher Education by Charity Johansson and Peter Felton.
The book’s theme of transformation has a twofold bearing on Goucher’s campus. Everyone at the college is dedicated to providing students with an education that is informative, as well as an overall experience that is transformative. At the same time, the college has embarked upon the literal transformation of its own campus.
Earlier this summer, Goucher broke ground on the first building of a first-year village for incoming students: a 185-bed new residence hall close to the heart of campus that will be completed by Fall 2016. This new dorm will primarily house students in double rooms, with a sprinkling of singles in the mix, and it will feature quiet study spaces, common rooms on each of the three upper floors of housing, a first- floor main lounge, as well as an outside common space that is meant to support community-building.
What the dorms won’t feature for first- year students is private baths.
“If you ask students if they want to have their own bathroom and be in a single room, they will say they do. But really that’s not what’s best for them,” says Linda Barone, associate director for facilities planning. “First-year students do best when living in a traditional residence hall with shared bathrooms. They get out of their rooms and meet new people. You want the opportunities for creating community, even if it’s a forced thing.”The new residence hall also will support student learning by bringing back the tradition of having faculty and staff live on campus alongside students. The building’s first floor will feature two two-bedroom apartments, one for faculty and one for staff.
“I’m especially excited about this aspect of the project and how it will strengthen Goucher’s living-learning community concept by extending education from the classroom to the residence halls,” says President Bowen. “This is a high-impact practice and another way we can give students a meaningful experience here and another way for us to weave our attention to transformation into our campus.”
Progress is being made to bring these laudable intentions to fruition. Since the groundbreaking, construction efforts have focused on erecting fencing for safety, relocating water lines and electrical lines, and linking to an already-existing sprinkler system. In late July, the construction crews also began digging the foundation for this new residence hall.
Additionally, a survey was sent to current and prospective students to get input on the kinds of furnishings and finishes young people want and what kinds of spaces they want to live in.
￼"It's a fast-track process," says Barone. "We are getting the first part done so we can get the foundations done this fall; meanwhile we're still working on the details of what the inside of the building will look like.”
Two other buildings are slated to round out the first-year village, providing about 450 beds for entering students. If funding allows, the plan will be to tear down Froelicher Hall and start on the next two buildings of the first-year village immediately next summer, with an anticipated completion for Fall 2017. “That’s the goal,” says Barone, “but we need to have the capital lined up so we can begin to plan properly for this next phase.”
The next phase also calls for creating a large, central, community dining hall at the Pearlstone Student Center and replacing Stimson Hall with an upper-division village that will provide older students with increased independence and privacy in 425 new shared suites and apartments.
“We know that our students are both leaving home and finding a new home here on campus,” says President Bowen.“This is especially important for first-year students. At Goucher, we are nurturing a sense
of belonging, of ‘home,’ in our students. One important way we can do this is by creating a strong residential community that dramatically impacts their college experience.”
—Kristen K. Pinheiro