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Assistant Professor Sean Miller with artist Brendan Jamison

at the University of Florida's Samuel P. Harn Museum



Magazine of The Gator Nation





With art studios, on-site classes and live-in professors, today’s residence halls offer more than a place to sleep.

By Marissa Gainsburg (4JM)

In a paint-splattered studio in Reid Hall, Patricia Aguerrevere (BAHA ’11, 7ED) adds a swath of bright blue to an already colorful mural. Next door in Yulee Hall, a yoga class stretches into plank position in front of a world map. And in Hume Hall, Saajan Panikar (4ALS) debates with his peers in philosophy class. They’re all things you’d expect to find on a college campus — but probably not in a dorm.

Welcome to the living-learning community, a growing trend that carries learning outside of the classroom. Each of the University of Florida’s 11 on-campus communities has a core purpose — from promoting wellness to developing leadership skills — reflected in everything from its design to its facilities.

For the most part, the communities are built around particular majors or interests, while others mirror trends in society.

Creative Collaboration

Reid Hall, the community for those majoring or interested in the arts, works with the College of Fine Arts to foster creativity with contests and events. “Reid is definitely one of our halls where students really live the lifestyle,” says Mary Jordan (8ED), coordinator of academic residential programs. “It’s very artsy, almost like a different school entirely.”

Just walk into the art studio at 3 a.m. to see the students at work — on easels, on the wall, even on the door. The walls are repainted once a year, says residence life coordinator Ayesha Rizvi Mian, but they’re covered with sketches, paintings and words within weeks. One wall, now covered with a painting of a black horse, will soon be replaced with a mirror for dancers looking for a place to practice. For musicians, the hall also has designated hours when students can play instruments in their rooms.

Though Reid Hall doesn’t have a live-in faculty member, it has an apartment designed for visiting artists, who can stay from one day to an entire month. Artists such as sculptor Brendan Jamison, who is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and the nationally renowned chamber musicians of the Beaux Arts Trio have visited to teach workshops, mentor students and talk about their career paths.

Foundation of the Future

“Our communities turn halls into homes,” says Blansett. She says the housing department plans to develop more living-learning communities until they make up half of the 24 undergraduate residence halls on campus.

“When you give students a common thread to hang onto, they will hold onto it even after they leave,” Porter-Roberts says. “It’s more than a place to stay on campus; it’s a place that stays with them when they leave campus and go off into the world.”


GAINSBURG, MARISSA. "Features: Don't Call it a Dorm", Florida Magazine, Gainesville, Florida, University of Florida Alumni Association, March 16, 2012

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   © Brendan Jamison 2012