by Annaclare Splettstoeszer | Staff Writer
The Whitworth Neighborhoods program is set to launch in fall 2021, a year later than originally planned due to the coronavirus pandemic. The program will take the place of the former Theme Houses, which are currently being used by the COVID Care Team to quarantine students. This change stems from the university’s intentions to “return to normal operations,” as detailed in Whitworth’s Feb. 19 press release.
Tim Caldwell, the Assistant Dean of Student Life and the Director of Residence Life, gave an idea of what this will look like for students in the fall.
“If COVID is no longer impacting us in the way it currently is, then we will be back to mostly normal in the fall,” Caldwell said. He also stated that the university will continue to take guidance from the Spokane Regional Health District as it has so far.
Caldwell further explained that if the vaccine rollout continues to go well and a high number of students are vaccinated, students in residence halls can expect the return of the lounge furniture, Primetimes, visitation hours and Traditiation practices that normally accompany residence hall life at Whitworth.
Alongside changes in residence halls, the university-owned houses will be back online as the new Whitworth Neighborhoods program.
Krista Maroni is the current Assistant Director of Residence Life and the future Area Coordinator of Whitworth Neighborhoods.
According to Maroni, to live in a Theme House, students had to apply to live with others under a common theme such as “Disney Dinners,” “Swim Team,” or “Coffee House.” Each house had to host a monthly event related to their theme.
“I was put in charge of the houses two years ago when they were still theme houses and I observed that it essentially became a lot of programming,.” Maroni said.
According to Maroni, the events were often only attended by a handful of residents’ friends rather than events which connected students from all across campus. So, the university switched tactics.
Maroni spearheaded the design for the Whitworth Neighborhoods program as a way for students living in the houses to have “more meaningful and intentional” experiences. Based on location, the houses have been grouped into five distinct “neighborhoods”. Rather than applying to live in a specific house, students apply to live in a specific neighborhood.
According to Maroni, the key differences between programs are the lack of themes and the frequency of programming. These changes are meant to help fit the program’s goal of promoting intentional community.
“You’re hosting one [event] a semester and you’re attending one every month with intention of those little communities becoming people who know each other,” Maroni said.
Maroni said the goal of the Neighborhoods program is to teach students to have a sense of citizenship and community identity while still staying close to the “learning bubble” of Whitworth.
“Who you live next to actually matters, no matter where you are in the world” she said.
Current students can contact Residence Life and Housing at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about the Fall 2021 residential life experience, or apply online individually or as a group of up to six students to the Whitworth Neighborhoods program.