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Office of Residential Academic Initiatives

Hobart House on field day

As a partnership between the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of the Provost, the Office of Residential Academic Initiatives (ORAI) fosters a seamless undergraduate experience for students who live on campus. Along with stewardship of the residential college system and cultivation of the newer residential community model, ORAI is responsible for campus-wide initiatives that provide faculty engagement, academic programming, and academic support in all residential spaces, including traditional residence halls. These programs:

  • promote interaction with faculty and academic advisers outside of classrooms and offices
  • strengthen residents’ sense of community and connection to Northwestern
  • enrich the intellectual, cultural, and social lives of residents by cultivating lifelong habits of learning and responsibility.

Residential Colleges

More than one-third of students who live on campus reside in one of Northwestern’s eleven residential colleges. In addition, many students who live in a traditional residence hall or off campus choose to affiliate with a residential college. For over four decades, residential colleges have immersed students in energetic communities of peers, faculty, administrators, and graduate students. Some of the smaller residential colleges have specific themes related to academic and career areas while the largest ones are multi-thematic. Each is led by a faculty master, a full-time faculty member who advises student leaders on the college’s executive board, recruits fellows from the faculty and administration to be affiliated with the college, and helps shape the intellectual and cultural life of the college. Students routinely dine with fellows and have consistent opportunities to connect with them at more formal and informal events. While each residential college has unique traditions and organizes its own programs, the Office of Residential Academic Initiatives facilitates special offerings for members of all eleven colleges, including the funding of faculty-student research projects, residence-based seminars, and excursions around Chicago.

Residential Communities

In Northwestern’s two residential communities, which approximately 700 students call home, faculty members live amongst students. These faculty-in-residence are highly visible leaders with a steady presence during evenings and weekends, thus creating occasions for casual encounters about anything from advice about academic plans to input about programming in the residential community. Faculty-in-residence organize intellectual, cultural, and social events, many of which are held in their apartment, which is integrated into the larger residential community. They often invite colleagues to visit their residence to interact with students over meals or informal presentations, a feature that is unique to the residential community model.

Campus-Wide Initiatives

Regardless of the housing option they choose, all students who live on campus benefit from an ever-growing array of programs to enhance their Northwestern education. The Office of Residential Academic Initiatives collaborates with campus partners to bring students academic guidance and support where they want it and when they need it. For example, peer- and faculty-led study sessions for some of the largest courses on campus are offered after business hours in residential spaces in conjunction with the Math Department and the Searle Center for Advancing Learning & Teaching. To encourage students to make thoughtful choices about courses, ORAI hosts “Coming Soon to a Classroom Near You,” a series of events in dining halls and residential lounges where faculty speak with students about what they will be teaching in the upcoming quarter. Other campus-wide initiatives include pop-up libraries and pre-med advising in residential spaces. These and similar programs make it easier for students to connect with academic resources for the first time, which increases the likelihood that they will seek out those resources in the future. Students can take advantage of these and many more ORAI-sponsored programs while living on campus.