Virginia Tech has selected four faculty members to serve as associate faculty principals for the four individual houses at the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston, the university’s newest living-learning community.

Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing and Director of Composition in the Department of English Sheila Carter-Tod will head Holly House. Matthew Gabriele, an associate professor and coordinator of medieval and early modern studies, will serve as associate principal of Hickory House. Erika Meitner, also an assistant professor of English, will work with Hawthorn House. Tomalei Vess, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, will lead Honey Locust House.

The residential college, set to open in August, will house approximately 800 students. The college will then be divided into four houses, each serving as home to roughly 200 students. Each house will be led by an associate faculty principal, four resident advisors, and a graduate residential fellow. The houses are named for types of trees that grow on the Virginia Tech campus.

This new community is the second residential college at Virginia Tech and is open to students from all years and majors. The college’s counterpart, the Honors Residential College at East Ambler Johnston, opened in fall 2011 and serves University Honors students from all years and majors.

While the two colleges each have their own focus, the intended outcome is the same for all students in the residential colleges.

“The ultimate goal is the life of the mind is not partitioned, the classroom is not a border. You continue learning,” said Assistant Professor Benjamin Sax, who will serve as the live-in and lead faculty principal for the entire Residential College at West Ambler Johnston. “I know [the associate faculty principals’] input will be helpful in making the first year strong and successful and to set a positive trajectory in the hope that other colleges will be built.”

The residential college is based on a model that has been in place at some Ivy League schools and small liberal arts colleges for many years. One of the advantages it offers students is the opportunity to experience the life of a small, student-centered college while attending a large, research-oriented university. The associate faculty principals will join Sax along with several faculty fellows from departments and disciplines across campus to help residents experience this more student-centered approach through engaging and unified intellectual and social lives at Virginia Tech.

“Ambler Johnston is certainly about bricks and mortar, but more importantly it’s about the people and ideas that are found within them,” said Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok Jr. “The residential college idea provides a way for students to gain an educational experience that integrates the life of the soul with the life of the mind and body and, moreover, reminds us that the three were never meant to be separated.”

The college will be housed in a completely renovated West Ambler Johnston Hall, where residents will have access to upgraded facilities, including air-conditioned rooms as well as common spaces including lounges, classrooms, meeting spaces, a theater, a library, and a fitness area. They will share the common spaces with the residents of the Honors Residential College at East Ambler Johnston.



Written by Jennifer Gibson.

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