Ashley Lester is 26 and has her master’s degree in counseling education from Auburn University, but there’s something about her easy-going manner that makes it easy to imagine her living among fresh-faced undergraduate students in a college dorm.
Maybe that’s because she does.
Lester is part of a new wave sweeping universities across the nation, in which resident halls boast academic programs, supported by live-in professional staff. At UGA, Lester lives in Soule Hall and also assists with the Franklin Residential College in Rutherford Hall and the French and Spanish Language Communities in Mary Lyndon Hall. The Franklin Residential College is home to graduate adviser Lisette Montoto, and academic adviser Greg Armstrong keeps office hours there. It is not unusual for Rutherford Hall students to see their live-in dean, J. Douglas Toma, associate professor with the Institute of Higher Education, walk the halls with his wife and young son.
“Universities everywhere are trying to go to a smaller residence hall with a live-in dean,” says Lester. “They’re realizing how important the housing aspect is to education.”
Lester was one of many individuals honored late last month during “Celebrating Residential Academic Partnerships,” an informal program that recognized the many different UGA departments that work in concert with the department of university housing.
Other recognized partnerships were: the Honors Program, the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, the Franklin College Office of Academic Advising, Creswell Hall Learning Communities, the Freshmen College Summer Experience, the Division of Academic Enhancement’s residence hall tutoring program, the vice president for instruction and associate provost, the vice president for student affairs and associate provost, the Athletic Association, Disability Resource Center, ROTC and Office of International Education.
Rick Gibson, director of education and services for the residence halls, ended the afternoon with future possible collaborations of the housing and other departments.
“With the departure of our leader,” he said, referring to Jim Day’s recent retirement as executive director of housing, “we want to make sure our academic partnerships do not cease.”
A multicultural living/learning community is in the very early planning stages, he said, but may be ready for fall 2007.