New faculty principal aims to engage students on a deeper level
As Virginia Tech’s newest residential college faculty principal, C.L. Bohannon wants to engage students not only in their disciplinary intellectual growth but also as citizens who will be active change agents for society.
“I wanted to be part of the residential college to be able to have a deeper level of engagement with students on campus,” said Bohannon, assistant professor and director of the Community Engagement Lab in Landscape Architecture in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech. “I was particularly drawn to the new Leadership and Social Change Residential College (LSCRC) to encourage students to embrace an ethos of social responsibility as part of their academic journey.”
As faculty principal for LSCRC, Bohannon joins Danna Agmon, associate professor of history, and Pablo Tarazaga, associate professor of mechanical engineering, faculty principals for the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston and the Honors Residential Commons at East Ambler Johnston. As faculty principals, Bohannon, Agmon, and Tarazaga live in the residence halls with students and facilitate lectures, social activities, and educational programs that bring faculty and guests from around the world into the residential colleges to enrich the educational experience.
“The faculty principal position provides an opportunity to be an active intellectual mentor for students beyond the typical contact time a normal faculty-student relationship would allow,” said Bohannon. “For me, it was being able to have a deeper level of engagement with the students to work on real issues that our society faces, such as food insecurity, spatial inequality, and social and environmental injustice. I hope to learn as much from the students as they learn from me through this process. That makes this position really exciting.”
Bohannon’s research focuses on the relationship between community engagement and design education, primarily through design for social and environmental justice. Through his research, Bohannon works in the landscape context of community history and identity, social and environmental justice and injustice, and community learning. His research has led to contributions to the theorization and application of community engagement in design education.
The Leadership and Social Change Residential College is one of 15 living-learning communities (LLCs) at Virginia Tech. Living-learning communities set Virginia Tech apart from its peer institutions by providing students with co-curricular experiences and transformational learning that can happen outside the classroom. LLCs give students the opportunity to thrive both in and out of the classroom in a learning environment that becomes home.
There are LLC options for students from every academic college and every class year. Currently, 37 percent of students living in residence halls live in LLCs. The university has set a goal of housing 66 percent of on-campus residents in LLCs by 2025.
The Leadership and Social Change Residential College will be housed in the newly renovated O'Shaughnessy Hall. Construction crews began the $21.5 million project in spring 2017. O'Shaughnessy Hall, originally built in 1966, has been upgraded to include new furnishings, an air-conditioning system, additional community spaces, and a unique glass-enclosed stairway that will face a newly landscaped exterior courtyard. The 69,211-square-foot residence hall has accommodations for 335 students, a faculty apartment, several faculty and staff offices, a classroom, a community living room, and a faculty meeting area.
The LSCRC is an academic leadership studies and development program maintained through a collaborative effort of the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Housing and Residence Life and the Leadership Education Collaborative in Student Affairs.
“Chief among the philosophical underpinnings of the living-learning community approach is that learning can — and does — happen everywhere, not just in the classroom,” said Frank Shushok Jr., senior associate vice president for Student Affairs. “Our collaborative initiatives make residence halls more than just a place where students go after class.”
In addition to the LSCRC, new LLCs this fall include Ujima and Transfer Experience.
Ujima is for any student who is interested in understanding, supporting, and learning about the unique experiences of African-Americans in society, including their experiences in college. Ujima is housed in Peddrew-Yates Hall, which honors Irving Linwood Peddrew III, the first black student to enroll at Virginia Tech in 1952, and the late Charlie Lee Yates, the first black graduate, who earned a bachelor of science degree with honors in 1957. The Ujima LLC was announced last spring as the Black Alumni Reunion celebrated the 65th anniversary of Peddrew's admission and the 60th anniversary of Yates’ graduation from Virginia Tech.
Transfer Experience, housed in Oak Lane, is a living-learning community specifically designed to meet the needs of students who transfer to Virginia Tech from a community college or another four-year institution. Each year, about 1,000 transfer students enroll at Virginia Tech. Approximately 20 percent of each graduating class of Hokies began their journey as transfers.
Transfer Experience is a partnership between Student Affairs, the Student Success Center, Undergraduate Academic Affairs’ Student Success Initiatives, Undergraduate Admissions, Pamplin College of Business’ Undergraduate Programs, and the College of Engineering’s Department of Engineering Education.
Frances B. Keene, interim director for housing and residence life, said that when students and educators spend time together in learning spaces, they connect with one another on a deeper level.
“We are the only people who get to live with our students,” Keene said. “This means we can help shape a culture in our residence halls where our students know that conversations about who they are becoming and what they are learning are welcomed in their community, and that the people they live with care about them. It is a unique and powerful opportunity.”
Written by Sandy Broughton. Photos by Christina Franusich.