Baridon Hall opens doors to new residential college

Baridon Hall will house UCA’s newest residential college, the fifth on campus, starting this fall in collaboration with the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences.

The Health, Promotion and Wellness (HPaW) Residential College will feature programs for students interested in health-related careers such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, communication sciences and disorders, nursing and school psychology.

Learning Communities Director Jayme Millsap Stone, said the new residential college came into being as a result of large interest from health-related majors.

“We looked at numbers of students with health and behavioral science majors who had applied to other residential colleges and, in some instances, the residential colleges were as much as 30 percent health and behavioral science majors,” she said. “They’re obviously wanting a residential college experience.”

A residential college allows students to experience learning in a more communal environment, receiving one-on-one attention from faculty and becoming part of a network of peers.

Stone said residential colleges create well-balanced students who are socially aware and civically minded.

Applications are available now to apply for HPaW.

“So far, HPaW has more applications sent in than any other [residential college on campus], so the students are hearing about it and making their choice,” she said. “It’s in the lead.”

Discussions on HPaW started in fall 2013 with a committee of about eight members – representatives from CHBS departments as well as housing officials.

The residential college will boast opportunities for students to work closely with faculty who have experience in the associated fields, according to HPaW’s website.

Stephanie McBrayer, housing director, said the change will be an asset to UCA and meet the demands for additional housing.

“[Baridon] actually has built-in classrooms and offices already,” she said. “It’s got wonderful community space that lends itself to a residential college.”

Interim CHBS Dean Art Gillaspy said HPaW will improve student retention and help students with their career goals.

“One of our big aims with HPaW is to promote opportunities for students to work closely with faculty on research and service projects related to health and fitness,” he said.

McBrayer said a multi-purpose room on the third floor can be used for classroom space or events. Classroom space is also available on the second floor.

“We are still in discussion on how to transform the common spaces,” she said.

Sophomore beds will no longer be available in Baridon Hall as a result of the changes, shifting the students to either New Hall or university apartments.

“We’re still in early discussions on where to move [the sophomore year experience program currently in Baridon]and how that will look next year,” McBrayer said.

McBrayer said she has already seen several applications for the new Baridon housing options and doesn’t foresee any problems filling space.

Concerns about accommodating student interests and meeting demands for major-specific offerings led to the creation of HPaW.

“As a department we were struggling with what to do about how to increase freshmen beds on campus,” McBrayer said. “We had a great need.”

The Office of Learning Communities approached housing about a potential health and behavioral science residential college. Meetings followed between a CHBS task force and the provost’s office.

The HPaW resident master selection process is ongoing. Additional housing staff for the residential college will be announced at a later date.

Gillaspy said students will be able to take CHBS courses together and work together on community outreach projects.

“UCA has always been a leader in the behavioral and health sciences,” he said. “HPaW will give our students an advantage as they explore their interests and prepare for their future.”

Stone said any of the residential colleges on campus are available to students seeking an environment that brings them closer to a sense of community.

“UCA is the only institution [in Arkansas]that uses a residential college system, so that places us in a unique position,” she said.

Though other state universities offer living-learning communities, Stone said they don’t have faculty living with students.

“Our classical model represents what students would get at Oxford, or Cambridge, or William and Mary, or the University of Virginia or Yale,” she said.

Stone said UCA has tracked the data since it started the first residential college in 1997.

“We have a 12 percent higher graduation rate and a 10 percent higher fall to fall first-year to second-year student rate,” she said.

Stone said social and academic connections are helping students feel connected to UCA, which means higher GPAs and graduation rates.

According to CHBS, UCA awards more undergraduate and graduate degrees in health and behavioral sciences than any other four-year institution in the state.

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