University of Lynchburg is taking the next major step in its transformative strategic plan, Vision 2020, which aims to position the institution as a national leader for engaged learning.
The Board of Trustees has endorsed plans to replace McWane Hall with a new residence hall that meets the needs of modern students and also provides space for the new Westover Honors College — a living-learning community that expands the thriving Westover Honors Program.
The residence hall and the honors college each drive student engagement, the primary goal of Lynchburg’s Vision 2020 strategic plan, through high-impact educational practices. They also coincide with the institution’s transition to the name University of Lynchburg in the summer of 2018.
Adopted one year ago, Vision 2020 outlines three major goals for Lynchburg: student engagement, campus improvements, and stewardship. The upcoming residence hall project will be the first of several major facilities projects supporting those goals.
“I am excited by what we have accomplished while pursuing Vision 2020 in its first year,” said Dr. Kenneth R. Garren, president of University of Lynchburg. “Our faculty and staff already have developed new opportunities for students inside and outside the classroom. Our revived living space will strengthen the spirit of community on our campus and set the stage for future building projects. Meanwhile, the Westover Honors College will create great opportunities for students seeking academic challenge.”
Residence hall project
McWane Hall — the center of three residence halls bordering Shellenberger Field — will close in the summer of 2018. A 14-month construction project will replace it with a new, larger building that will provide semi-suite living arrangements for about 270 students. This will give students an increasing level of independence as they progress through college. A rooftop terrace will offer views of Shellenberger Field as well as the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“We will build a residence hall that strengthens community,” said Hayward Guenard, vice president and dean for student development. “All the communal spaces will be flexible to meet the desires of students. For example, the lounges could be used for study sessions, club meetings, or even ‘skyboxes’ during athletic events on the field.”
Kristen Cooper, director of residence life, pointed out that semi-suite living space for sophomores and juniors was one of the key needs identified in a space study Lynchburg undertook a year ago. “The suite-style community will allow for greater privacy, but will still maintain a high level of community amenities and living spaces,” she said. “This project will feature both indoor and outdoor gathering, social, and study spaces that will make this community a premier living experience.”
Given the board’s endorsement, architects will continue discussions with students, faculty, and staff to finalize the building’s design. The final cost will be determined when the plans are finished, and the project will be paid for through a combination of low-interest financing and fundraising.
During the construction project, students who would live in McWane will be assigned to rooms in other residential areas that currently have capacity.
Westover Honors College
Part of the new residence hall will provide a living-learning community for the Westover Honors College, including student living space, lounges, faculty offices, and classrooms.
The Westover Honors Program was founded in 1987 to provide academic challenge and an interdisciplinary curriculum to students seeking an honors experience. Since 2002, the program has grown from 26 students to nearly 200. “The transition to an honors college will allow us to recruit even more students, as well as further develop our curriculum and our co-curricular programming,” said Dr. Edward DeClair, director of Westover Honors.
“We’re going to have a true living-learning community that will be focused on honors education,” he said. “The goal is to promote interaction among honors students and between honors students and the faculty. This will provide greater opportunities for organized, structured advising. I think that’s a hallmark of Westover Honors.”
The college designation and more dedicated space will help the honors program expand on its success, said Dr. Sally Selden, vice president and dean for academic affairs. “Westover Honors takes talented students to the next level with a focus on critical thinking and academic challenge,” she said. “By creating this integrated living-learning environment, we elevate the excellence of Westover Honors and commit to providing this academic experience to more students.”
About Vision 2020
Students, faculty, and staff collaborated to create Vision 2020, which the Board of Trustees adopted in October 2016. Its primary goals are to make Lynchburg a national leader in student engagement in academics, athletics, and leadership; modernize and enhance campus facilities; and build a culture of philanthropy by engaging students, alumni, and friends in the life, work, and support of Lynchburg.
In February 2017, the Board of Trustees chose to rename the institution University of Lynchburg beginning in the summer of 2018. The new name reflects the institution’s evolution from a small college to a regional university with a broad undergraduate curriculum and doctoral-level graduate programs. It also symbolizes a commitment to the continuing evolution and improvements envisioned in the strategic plan. Within the University of Lynchburg, four colleges will administer academic programs: the University of Lynchburg of Arts and Sciences; the College of Business; the College of Health Sciences; and the College of Education, Leadership Studies, and Counseling.
Faculty and staff are pushing initiatives to create more opportunities that engage students inside and outside the classroom. These projects range from a second-year experience program that helps sophomores thrive, high-tech classrooms that encourage active learning, more career development programming, and new academic programs.
In addition to the residence hall project, Lynchburg is developing plans for new facilities for its science and athletics programs. In the future, the university will engage in fundraising efforts for these projects and other Vision 2020 initiatives.
“Vision 2020 will transform many aspects of the student experience at Lynchburg,” said Dr. Selden, who leads implementation of the strategic plan along with Steve Bright, vice president for business and finance. “Over the next several years, we will reinvigorate our campus, increase engagement in our academic programs and student life, and strengthen our sense of community. This will happen thanks to our bold vision, the support of our Board of Trustees and the alumni community, and our commitment to always becoming.”