Honors plans to build new freshmen housing

GVL / Courtesy 

GVL / Courtesy http://gvsu.edu/honor/

Lucas Rains

The Grand Valley State University Frederik Meijer Honors College is planning to rework its program by unifying the four-year-program it provides and creating a new, freshman-only building.

Jeffrey Chamberlain, director of the Honors College, said he wants to connect the program’s classes by maintaining certain themes during students’ time at GVSU. Chamberlain said one of the hallmarks of the program is its foundation in interdisciplinary sequences, which are courses designed to focus on varying subjects.

The future will involve having a connected experience based on sequences. For example, a student may take the Latin American Civilization sequence in their first year, and they can then build on that knowledge in a Latin American Art course their sophomore year. He hopes this unified approach will help prepare students for the real world by helping them connect the different courses they are taking.

“That kind of breadth of understanding and that connection of understanding really helps you function in the world when you leave because you are able to make connections other people can’t,” Chamberlain said.

The Glenn A. Niemeyer Learning and Living Center is the main home for the honors program. This building houses the GVSU community of honors students, but it has proved less than ideal for many. Over the years, Chamberlain said he has realized the apartment-style rooms are not the best option for freshmen in the program because many students spend most of their time inside their apartment.

“We’re in talks of building a new building that will not be apartments, and we’re going to transition as many of our freshman as we can to a new setting that is much more communal, much more open; you get more involved,” Chamberlain said.

Chamberlain said he wants honors freshmen to have the same experience on campus as the rest of the freshmen who live in traditional freshman housing. This living situation can expand the social lives of students and help them connect with their entire freshman class instead of solely other honors students.

Taylor Gibson, a sophomore honors student, believes the program can be very helpful in terms of academics, but she said Niemeyer is not the best option.

“The academic experience you get is very valuable, but the social life in Niemeyer is almost none,” Gibson said.

Gibson knew very few people on her floor, and she feels this is attributed to the apartment-style setting of Niemeyer.

For Chamberlain, housing is key during the first year, but not so much later on, because students want to connect with other friends or students in their same study area.

While splitting up where honors students live could potentially fragment the community, Chamberlain said other things will help connect the students.

“I’m not really concerned about having several centers,” Chamberlain said. “What’s more important is that we find ways for people to identify with honors and connect with people across those different living centers.”