UC housing more popular than ever
With new housing options offering student support and specialized groupings, more Bearcats are opting to live at UC
Living on the University of Cincinnati campus has never been more popular — and with a brand-new residence hall and special learning-living communities, emerging housing options are giving students even more reasons to call UC home.
"We’re seeing demand grow all around," says Carl Dieso, director of housing. With overall enrollment and first-year class size poised to set records, it makes sense that around 6,800 have opted to live on campus this year — an increase of more than five percent over last year. But that rise isn’t just attributed to sheer population growth — 83 percent of freshmen will be residing in UC housing, a new university record.
More upperclass students are renewing their housing contracts, too. In order to keep up with demand, UC for the eighth year has expanded capacity in nearby properties through a block-lease program, with spaces available at University Park Apartments, University Edge, U Square, 101 East Corry, The Verge Cincinnati and CP Cincy.
Dieso attributes the trend to UC’s modern facilities, convenient and affordable packages and new offerings like specialized learning-living communities. "There’s just a lot of good stuff happening, and I think folks are aware of that and they want to be part of it."
New this year, UC has formalized its learning-living community (LLC) program, in which first-year students with a particular major or interest opt to be grouped together with similar students in designated housing and in the classroom. Different from theme housing that UC has offered in the past, LLCs offer an academic component and intentionality. Before, theme housing would group students from one major together on a certain floor, sometimes without their knowledge. With LLCs, students apply to live and take classes together and share access to special programming in their residence, such as study groups and academic advising.
"Studies have shown that students who had been in a learning-living program their first year had higher levels of academic self-confidence, were more likely to mentor others and remained committed to civic engagement at the university," says Aleia White, assistant director of academic initiatives for Resident Education and Development.
UC has opened three new LLCs for this fall while another existing program is making moves for its 10th anniversary.
Audre Lorde Social Justice House
New to the university this year and located in Stratford Heights building 10, the Audre Lorde Social Justice House is a gender-inclusive residence open to all students (first-years and upperclass students) who have a passion for activism, equity and inclusion. Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a feminist writer and civil rights activist who used poetry to express the outrage at injustices seen during her lifetime.
"We felt as though her work coupled well with this spirit of activism that UC students have, particularly around gender identity and expression, and the intersectionality of that with race," says Trent Pinto, director of Resident Education and Development.
What started as an effort to help students outside the gender binary find adequate housing, evolved into an LLC with inclusivity as its purpose. It’s been something of a passion project for Pinto, who worked with many other departments in the university to get the Audre Lorde House off the ground, including the department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, UC Women’s Center, Title IX, the LGBTQ Center, the Department of Public Safety, Gen-1 and the dean of students office.
Fifteen students are moving into the house this fall — some drawn to the gender-inclusive element, while others are following their passion for social justice.
"I think this is going to be our activist group, and that’s something that in this day and age we need to nurture — students who are engaged and willing to challenge one another for the betterment of the community," Pinto says. "UC is the perfect breeding ground for that because we do have very engaged and active students."
As far as special programming, Pinto says students in this house will work collaboratively to find ways to positively impact the student experience at UC and instill a sense of equity and inclusion for the greater Cincinnati community.
"These students care about being Bearcats," Pinto says. "They care about being here. They care about people coming onto their turf and [going] up against their values. And I think this is the perfect community that can help engage and shepherd some of that energy."
Bearcat Leadership LLC
Joshua Donath, a community coordinator in Resident Education and Development, has pushed for a leadership-centered LLC based on a positive experience he had at another institution. Bearcat Leadership is open to freshmen in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences (non-science majors) and is housed on the 10th floor of Daniels Hall. Ten students have signed up, and they will share a learning commons group and take classes toward the Student Activities and Leadership Development certificate.
College of Engineering and Applied Science professor and head of the Department of Engineering Education P.K. Imbrie was also inspired to bring to UC an LLC based off a strong engineering community at another university. This passion paired with the desire to develop an “engineering identity” and continue strong retention led to the Engineering LLC, located in the first four floors of Daniels Hall. All first-year CEAS students are welcome to apply (not just engineering majors). This inaugural class includes 280 students who will live and take classes together while sharing study resources in the hall.
Pinto and White expect more LLCs in the future — they’ve got three additions in the works for fall 2019 and two more for 2020.
"We know that living on campus is an impactful experience," Pinto says. "Residential students have a higher GPA. They feel more engaged and connected to campus. They feel safer. Students that choose UC are very satisfied with living on campus, and they see all the benefits, academically and socially. I think these LLCs are just going to add another layer of that identity."
Since 2008, UC’s Gen-1 program has supported Pell-eligible, first-generation college students with a focus on successful transition to the university, first-to-second year retention and degree completion. A hallmark aspect of the program is the Gen-1 Theme House, considered the nation's first living-learning community to focus on first-generation college students. These students were previously spread across three buildings in Stratford Heights. Now, as the program celebrates 10 years, Gen-1 students, along with other first-generation underrepresented students, are now living under one roof in Stratford building 12, now known as the 1MPACT House.
The name describes the types of students who call this space home:
"1MPACT House is an investment by the university that’s grounded in the success of Gen-1," says its director Suzette Combs.
This student affairs initiative was created as a way to increase Gen-1’s footprint to serve additional students. Around 25 percent of freshmen are first-generation college students, and Gen-1 can only serve a small population of them. So the 1MPACT House includes not only Gen-1 but students who are either first-generation, from a low-income family or are underrepresented in their major and have received a scholarship from their college.
The house offers two dedicated rooms with in-house tutoring provided by the Learning Commons; a full kitchen stocked with pots, pans and other tools (there will even be cooking classes); and accommodations for up to 154 students (Gen-1’s previous housing had 90 beds).
When Gen-1 started 10 years ago, the national six-year graduation rate for first-generation, Pell-eligible students was 11 percent. It has since risen nationally to about 50 percent. Gen-1’s most recent class reached a 78 percent graduation rate. Nationally, the first-to-second year retention rate for those students is about 50 percent, while Gen-1’s is 92 percent. The goal is that other students in the house will reap the same benefits.
Marian Spencer Hall
Dedicated in March, Marian Spencer Hall opens to students for the first time this fall. Located on Campus Green, the high-rise will house 330 students in suite-style rooms. It will also be home to two new campus restaurants: On the Green dining center (or OTG), which offers chef-inspired, all-you-care-to-eat dining (think fresh stir-fry, handmade pizzas and meat carving stations) with beautiful views of Campus Green and beyond, and Tim Hortons, a Canadian-based restaurant known for its coffee and doughnuts that serves specialty hot and cold beverages, breakfast, snacks, baked goods, sandwiches and "hot bowls" like chili and macaroni and cheese. UC is the first U.S. educational institution to have a Tim Hortons.
The residence hall’s name honors UC alumna and civil rights activist Marian Spencer, who, during her years at UC, wasn’t permitted to live on campus.