Office of Residential Academic Initiatives

Michelle Wright, Faculty Chair of Women’s Residential College (Hobart House) and students

Jacob Smith, Faculty-in-Residence at Elder Residential Community, welcomes guests to a student-faculty dinner

Math Department Exam Review Study Table in a dining hall

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 program and oversight of the Faculty-In-Residence, ORAI is responsible for campus-wide initiatives that provide faculty engagement, academic programming, and academic support in all residential spaces. These programs:

  • promote interaction with faculty and 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-quarter of students who live on campus reside in one of Northwestern’s residential colleges. In addition, many students who live in a residence hall or off campus choose to affiliate as a non-resident member of a residential college. For over four decades, residential colleges have immersed students in energetic communities of peers, faculty, administrators, and graduate students.

Most residential colleges have loose themes related to academic and career areas while some are multi-thematic. Each is led by a Faculty Chair, 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 colleges, including the funding of faculty-student research projects, residence-based seminars, and excursions around Chicago.


In Northwestern’s four residential areas, 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. Faculty-in-Residence organize intellectual, cultural, and social events, many of which are held in their spacious apartments, which are integrated into residence halls. They often invite colleagues to visit their residence to interact with students over meals or informal presentations, a feature that is available to students across all residential areas.

Campus-Wide Initiatives

All students who live on campus benefit from an 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.

To encourage students to make thoughtful choices about courses, ORAI facilitates “Coming Soon to a Classroom Near You,” a series in which faculty speak with students about what they will be teaching in the upcoming quarter. Other campus-wide initiatives include Office of Undergraduate Research workshops and Health Professions Advising sessions 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.