Students majoring in any of Virginia Tech’s science, technology, engineering, and math programs, often referred to as STEM, will soon have one community where they can interact, live, learn, and grow together across scientific disciplines.

Beginning in fall 2012, the inVenTs living-learning community for STEM majors will open in Lee Hall and will house all students who have applied for and been accepted into one of the university’s four independent STEM living-learning communities — DaVinci: The Biological and Life Sciences community, the men’s engineering community Galileo, the women’s engineering community Hypatia, and the new Curie community for the physical and quantitative sciences.

The four communities within inVenTs will retain separate identities, but will have access to shared programming, activities, and classroom space in the building, as well as access to faculty, academic administrators, student affairs staff, and other students who can offer ideas, encouragement, and collaboration across various disciplines offered in the College of Engineering and the College of Science.

While the community will be primarily made up of first-year students, leadership and mentoring opportunities will be available for upper-division students through participation in several student committees, including academic support and community service, and through mentorship groups designed to assist freshmen in their transition to life at Virginia Tech.

“We’re really excited to be able to bridge the four communities,” said Associate Dean of Science Jill Sible. “One of our real strengths are the collaborations that occur across disciplines. Some of the most exciting discoveries have been made when faculty from science and engineering and other places are working together, so we want our students to really be a part of that culture.”

Sible said community service and social activities will be very important in helping the students connect with each other, ultimately helping them bond and support one another through what can sometimes be challenging fields of study.

“We hope to increase student retention, to help students find a sense of community, so these programs will be more successful and attractive,” she said. “We also pay a lot of attention to diversity in both colleges and we look for this to be an opportunity to grow the numbers of women and minorities who are majoring in these fields.”

Susan Arnold-Christian, assistant director of the university’s Center for Enhancement of Engineering Diversity, said she hopes the new community will also help current and potential students see the rewards that can come not just from studying the STEM disciplines, but from staying with them after graduation, as well.

“Problems in the world today — scarcity of water, poverty, energy — all of these rely heavily upon solutions in science and engineering, and I think our students come to Virginia Tech in large part because they want to make a difference,” she said. “I think having these opportunities for students to work together really lets them see what’s possible.”

The inVenTs community is one part of an existing effort across Virginia Tech to merge the academic and social worlds of students so that intellectual development occurs in all areas of their lives. The larger initiative includes the Honors Residential College at East Ambler Johnston, a second residential college to open in West Ambler Johnston Hall in fall 2012, the new Academic Resource Center in Pritchard Residence Hall, and several other living-learning communities on campus.

These communities are designed to promote learning on a broader scale, as well as to complement the Division of Student Affairsfive aspirations for student learning: unwavering curiosity, self-understanding and integrity, civility, courageous leadership, and the values of the university’s motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

Associate Director of Residence Life Jamie Penven said he is excited to see where the new community will lead.

“The inVenTs community builds on a very successful history of the Biological and Life Sciences, Hypatia, and Galileo communities and opens the door toward exciting opportunities for student learning,” he said. “The faculty working with these programs are excellent scholars and serve as role models for the students.”

In order to participate in the inVenTs community, students must apply to the individual STEM community that fits their course of study. Once accepted to the individual community, students will automatically be part of inVenTs.

Returning students must submit an online application by Jan. 19, while the application deadline for incoming students is May 1.

For more information about living-learning opportunities and the application process, visit the Housing and Residence Life website.



Written by Jennifer Gibson.

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