When the initial reports of freshman floors were confirmed last spring, no one knew what to expect. The change was an entirely new precedent for the residence halls that had never seen an all-freshmen floor.
From anecdotal testimony and preliminary data, both the men’s and women’s floors seem to have been successful. So much so that next year new freshman floors will be added to Ironside and Sunday, and the current Gaston hall will be expanded.
Director of First Year Experience Rebecca Weier and resident supervisors spent last summer deciding what the freshman floors in Smith and Gaston should look like. However, when move-in came around, both hall leaders and new freshmen were left wondering how to behave in the foreign environment.
The first couple of weeks presented a steep learning curve. Freshman Justin Reid said the freshmen came pumped full of energy but had no idea where to direct it.
But as the year progressed, freshmen, group leaders and assistant group leaders found their places in the halls.
In fact, GLs and AGLs have become strong, centralizing forces on the floors as well as mentors both in and out of discipleship group.
Weier attributed the success of the halls to their leadership.
“I think a huge part of the success [is] the leadership in the residence halls,” Weier said. “[The leadership] has been intentional in the goals they wanted to accomplish and accomplishing them.”
Resident mentor Jordon Baun also found GL and AGL leadership foundational to the floors’ success.
“The group leaders and assistant group leaders were hand chosen for the hall to be those who would invest more into their discipleship group,” Baun said.
“Right at the beginning the leaders set the tone that discipleship group was going to be used for [its intended purpose]. They were a lot more productive on this hall.”
Discipleship group played an important role on freshman floors. It served to connect freshmen early on to each other and to upperclassmen leaders.
“I love my discipleship group,” freshman Loeak Loeak said. “My GL and AGL were always teaching me things. They were the right guys [for the job].”
Hall meetings became more than a time for announcements as halls studied topics like the virtues of a godly man. Hall meeting drew special guests like President Pettit, Beneth Jones and academic deans.
An early concern about the freshman floor model was that it could segregate incoming freshmen from the rest of the University.
But Gaston resident supervisor Samantha Bennett said the women on her halls incorporated well into the University community, and involvement has been a key emphasis on the freshman floors.
Freshman Justin Reid laughed at the thought that he was somehow isolated on the freshmen floor.
“The thing is we’re not stuck here,” Reid said. “It’s not like they lock down the halls, or we just go to classes and come back here.”
Reid and other freshmen Jason Holland and Isaac Landry said society, choir and sports teams offer them chances to meet people outside the dorm.
In fact, those students on freshman halls are very involved in campus organizations as well as with each other.
Bennett said the sense of community is so strong some freshmen asked to stay on the hall and with each other next year.
“I think one of the huge values [freshman hall] brings is community,” Bennett said. “That community started pretty much from the beginning.”
Weier, Bennett and Baun said it remains to be seen how freshman floors will change dorm and campus life and affect retention rates of freshmen.