University meshes academic programs and residential life

GW plans to add more academic programs to freshman residence halls this fall and is offering the Hall on Virginia Avenue as a housing choice to incoming freshmen.

After GW purchased The Premier Hotel with the intent to make it a 395-bed residence hall, a letter was sent out to all freshmen May 28 offering first-year students the chance to change their first-choice housing preference to HOVA, said Mark Levine, assistant dean of students for the Community Living and Learning Center.

“It increases the options for freshmen who don’t want a big social atmosphere,” said Alan Elias, Residence Hall Association president.

The CLLC received 325 applications, as of June 18, from first-year students who chose to change their housing preference to HOVA, Levine said.

In addition to the six floors of double-occupancy rooms, the hall will house two specialized communities. CLLC has received about 30 applications for each of the specialized communities, which required an essay, Levine said.

Forty first-year students will participate in The Watergate 723 community floor and they will explore “America after Watergate – how Watergate changed us politically, socially and culturally,” according to a letter sent to freshmen. The Premier Hotel, formerly a Howard Johnson’s, played a role in Watergate, with Room 723 serving as a look-out point during the break-in of the Democratic National Committee offices.

Students will study the impact of the Watergate break-in and the resignation of Richard Nixon on the two-party system, pop culture and history, according to the letter. Students will participate in forums to discuss various issues and attend lectures and films.

“It’s a chance that no other freshmen in the country have,” Elias said.

Students will not be housed in room 723. It will house Watergate memorabilia and prospective students visiting GW will be able to spend the night there, according to the letter.

The Healthy Lifestyle Community will be housed on the penthouse floor of HOVA and the 38 first-year students who decide to participate in this community will abstain from using nicotine, alcohol and other drugs and will educate others on wellness and exercise.

There will be eight community facilitators in HOVA, one per floor, Levine said.

This summer, GW is in the process of upgrading each room in HOVA to have an ethernet line, two phone lines and a small refrigerator, Levine said. The hotel furniture will be replaced with University furniture, similar to furniture in other residence halls, Levine said.

HOVA will also have two study areas, a workout room and a pool on the roof, Levine said. Laundry facilities will be located on each floor and kitchenettes will be available as well, he said.

GW plans to close off access to the balconies, which are attached to each room, Levine said.

“It’s a safety and security concern,” Levine said.

The security will be similar to that in Thurston Hall, Levine said. A University Police officer will be stationed at the Hall’s entrance 24 hours a day and students will need their GWorld cards to enter the building and get onto the elevators, he said.

This fall’s large freshman class will also have new academic opportunities in Mitchell Hall.

Mitchell, which has all single rooms, will become an all-freshman residence hall, with the exception of some first-floor suites which were put into the lottery, Levine said.

A new program will be introduced into Mitchell Hall to promote academic success, Levine said. First-year students living in the hall will have a “Mitchell academic mentor” living on their floor. The academic mentors will be sophomore students who will help freshmen through their first year of college, Levine said.

Levine said community facilitators are also focusing on activities to help residents to get to know each other, since none of the new students will have roommates.

“It’s a challenge,” Levine said. “But we’re focusing on building a community with peer-to-peer relationships.”

Elias agreed freshmen living in Mitchell would not have trouble meeting others in their class. He said the new food options such as Little Caesar’s and Subway should draw Thurston residents into Mitchell.

“There will be programs to get people out so they get to know one another,” Elias said. “There will probably be a reduction of roommate conflicts also.”

An academic resource library will be added to the first floor, which will include donated books, old tests and syllabi, Levine said.

Elias said RHA also plans to incorporate more academic opportunities into residence hall life. Working with the College Democrats, Elias said they plan to have political speakers in the halls and have information sessions to help students file taxes, manage their bank accounts, use their time well and study.

First-year students will also be housed in Lafayette Hall, Strong Hall and Thurston Hall. Mount Vernon will be home to about 200 first-year female students.

Freshmen should receive their room assignments in mid-July and get their roommate information in early August, Levine said. Move-in day is August 21.

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