Northwestern's Residential Colleges: An Overview
Goals of the Residential College Program
The original purposes of the residential colleges were threefold: first, to extend the learning environment from the classroom to extracurricular life; second, to provide relatively small supportive communities in which the student would find something of a small-college atmosphere within the University; and third, to nurture better relations between faculty and students by establishing informal connections between student members and the colleges' Fellows. Generally, the goals of the residential colleges are to enrich the intellectual, cultural, and social lives of their students and to help them develop lifelong habits of learning and responsibility.
Historical Development of the Residential Colleges
Northwestern's residential college system was developed in the early 1970s in response to a report by a faculty committee that urged the formation of smaller intellectual communities within the larger University community. This document, "The Hagstrum Report," spurred the creation of a committee to study residential colleges across the nation and to make recommendations on the development of such a system at Northwestern. In January 1972, the committee, chaired by T. W. Heyck, professor of history, College of Arts and Sciences, recommended the establishment of residential colleges at Northwestern; five colleges were opened the following fall. The original five included three nonthematic (Lindgren, Shepard, and Willard) and two thematic (Urban Studies [later renamed the College of Community Studies] and Philosophy and Religion [which was closed in 1978 and resurrected as Humanities Residential College in 1980]). The system has grown from that original five to eleven residential colleges. Shepard and Willard have remained "multithematic," but Lindgren developed its theme of science and engineering. Six additional thematic colleges have been developed: Ayers Residential College of Commerce and Industry (1984), Communications Residential College (1981), International Studies Residential College (1981), Jones Fine and Performing Arts Residential College (1982), Public Affairs Residential College (1991), and Women's Residential College (1976).
Administration of the Residential College System
Because faculty involvement is central to the success of the system, the residential college program is administered by the Office of the Provost, which provides the budget for the program. The provost's office also appoints masters and Fellows annually. The director of residential colleges is appointed by the provost and works with the provost's office and the Office of Undergraduate Residential Life to develop and enhance the programming of the residential colleges. The director provides administrative support for the colleges, works with the student officers of the colleges to encourage programming, and serves as the primary liaison with the master staffs and the college system.
Each college has access to two sets of funds for programming support. The provost's office provides each college with a master's budget, which provides stipends for the master staffs and a budget to help promote academic/cultural programming. The expenditure of these funds is at the discretion of the faculty master; she/he also draws on this resource to help promote faculty involvement with the college.
In addition to these funds, student social funds are collected into an account administered by the Student Organizations Finance Office (SOFO) and designated by the college's student executive board. Academic initiatives in the colleges are often supported by a combination of student and master's funds. Officers are encouraged to work with the master staff at reviewing the RC's proposed plans for the academic year (including key annual events) and strive to coordinate those plans with budgeting on a quarterly basis.
For more information, make sure to see our "What is a residential college?" and "Why join a residential college?" pages.
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