Ribbon Cutting Held for the First Year Village at WKU
- Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022
Western Kentucky University dedicated its two newest residence halls and its First Year Village at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday.
The new First Year Village encompasses residence halls at the south end of campus where focused, first-year programming takes place. The $48 million living learning complex features two new pod-style residence halls, which house the majority of WKU’s Living Learning Communities (LLCs).
In a WKU LLC, students with similar academic or social interests live together on a residence hall floor and participate in activities tailored to their specific majors or interests. LLCs are designed to help students foster social and academic connections and to engage with WKU faculty, staff, and administrators. In addition to living together in residence halls, the students attend shared classes.
“Today, while we celebrate two newly constructed residence halls and our comprehensive First Year Village, we must remember that while attractive and exciting to our students, the significance does not lie in new construction. It lies in our Living Learning Communities, or what we call LLCs, that reside within this village,” said WKU President Timothy C. Caboni at the event. “From day one, they become part of a small family within the broader WKU Family. They study together; they walk to class together; they go on field trips together; they shout across the hall when they need help with an assignment. They grow up as Hilltoppers together here on our Hill. They find and personally experience the quintessence of community. And because of that connection and support, they persist semester-to-semester and all the way to graduation. They succeed.”
The initiative has been directed and shaped by the University’s Strategic Plan, Climbing to Greater Heights, which states, “in our effort to significantly increase our first to second year retention, we will focus our attention and central resources on a robust and engaging First Year Experience.”
Hilltoppers who participated in LLCs in the fall returned this spring at a rate 5.9 percentage points higher than those who did not, with 95.2% returning.
“Despite the challenges of the last two years, we have heard from students, over and over again, the impact that Living Learning Communities have had in their first-year experience,” said Dr. Mike Reagle, Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement and Executive Director for Housing and Dining. “Creating these physical environments where students, faculty, and staff can come together has transformed their connection to one another and to WKU.”
“Moving to Bowling Green was truly a big step for me,” said Jake Jones, a Living Learning Community student. “Transitioning to WKU, I was hoping to meet diverse people and learn more about the world around me. Being a part of an LLC has broadened my knowledge of others and has allowed me the opportunity to learn from them.”
Normal Hall houses 260 students, while Regents Hall houses 375 students. The new halls offer “pod-style” housing with 25 students per pod who share amenities such as bathrooms, common spaces, and a Resident Assistant. Centralized community-style bathrooms, as well as two private bathrooms, greatly reduces the bed-to-bath ratio and allows for co-ed pods. Each pod features a lounge, which serves as the residents’ living room and community connection point.
The design of the new halls features large windows in the community spaces, creating large “lanterns” for the south side of campus. A park-like green space is located in the former Pearce Ford Tower parking lot, creating a greater community atmosphere. To accommodate those parking spaces, the housing parking lot has been moved to the Normal Street lot, and a commuter lot was created with land purchased by the Student Life Foundation closer to campus on High Street.
The project was funded by the WKU Student Life Foundation, which gave its final approval in June 2019. The project is part of a 10-year strategic plan to optimize the on-campus living experience for current and future students.
“Many say, ‘it takes a village,’” said President Caboni. “Well, we created that village.”
For more information about the First Year Village and WKU Living Learning Communities, visit www.wku.edu/housing/future/fyv.php