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Quads start to feature more academics

As all sophomores settle into West Campus and quads begin to see the first of their facelifts, one component remains more in the minds than in the concrete plans of those polishing the new quad-based residential system: the academics.

Long-touted as a central component of reforming residential life, efforts to bring more academics into the dorms are finding some success through new computer clusters, tentative Sunday night quad dinners with faculty, and graduate student mentors.

"It's a chance to transform residential life from what hasn't been a particularly academic arena into something more," Campus Council President Andrew Nurkin said. "I hope students will take learning home with them."

Campus Council will play a large role in academic quad programming by working with Assistant Dean of Residential Life Deb LoBiondo, who has taken on the task. With the hiring of the new residence coordinators to live in the quads, LoBiondo created a personnel structure for organizing programming. She also transformed the former jobs of area coordinators into the positions of graduate assistants, graduate and professional students who also live in the quads and can help quad residents academically.

"My vision is to build a sense of community on West with each quad creating its own sense of identity and tradition," LoBiondo wrote in an e-mail. "In addition, and most importantly, it is my hope that students feel that their residential experience is complimentary to their academic experience and that it is one that supports them with all aspects of life here at Duke."

One notable difference in the quads is the creation of two new computer clusters--one in Craven Quadrangle and another in progress in the West-Edens Link--and the renovation of the Edens Quadrangle cluster. Each cluster offers about a dozen workstations with PCs and Macintosh- and UNIX-compatible computers, high-speed laser printers, whiteboards and work tables.

Jen Vizas, a manager at the Office of Information Technology, said the rooms are intended for "break-out classrooms," student collaborations, software use and space for RC programming. She said she eventually hopes to have similar labs in every quad, but that space is an obstacle.

"We're really supporting the academic needs of students for instructional purposes," Vizas said. "We're working to bridge the gap into residential spaces."

Administrators also hope to strengthen student-faculty connections through shared meals. Plans for Sunday night dinners with professors are still preliminary, but Nurkin said such a program is feasible and would greatly enhance the undergraduate experience.

Graduate and professional students have begun planning a quad-based mentoring system. Intended to help advise undergraduates on continuing their education or just to provide informal discussion, the system has yet to take a concrete form.

The lack of definitive programming is intentional, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said. He said he hopes student input will mold the form that academic quad programming takes.

Duke Student Government President Joshua Jean-Baptiste said he would like to see a writing studio representative and several subject-oriented tutors in each quad.

"One of the problems with academic resources on campus is the fact that many people don't know about them, and those who do know about them feel they are far away," Jean-Baptiste said. "We need to bring the services close to them."

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