Prior to Roybal taking the helm, for two years, Sarah Parks, a doctoral candidate in ecological economics and co-founder of the Student Sustainability Task Force, served as the program’s first teaching and learning assistant. She was responsible for organizing events, field trips, and community building activities, among other things. Parks noted that the “themed residence community provides a platform for students of various disciplines to converse and interact in a subject of common interest beyond what they are able to do in a classroom setting. The co-curricular programs that are part of Vasudha also help them to connect what they are learning in the classroom to real world issues, and it gives them an opportunity to connect with professors on a level they wouldn’t normally experience in the classroom.”
“There are many lessons that we have learned along the way in developing this program,” Akera said. “One important lesson is that individuals truly learn as part of a community. As a faculty member, we are interacting with the students and witnessing their growth in the program and seeing how they translate their experience into something meaningful within the academic institution and beyond.”
“The creation of Vasudha complements our stated goals in The Rensselaer Plan to provide an undergraduate experience that surpasses all others, along with the implementation of The Undergraduate Plan, a set of bold new initiatives that greatly expands and enhances opportunities for undergraduates at Rensselaer,” Hajela said.
Vasudha is supported by a project team comprised of faculty, staff, and a graduate student who serves as the teaching and learning assistant. Specific groups involved include: Undergraduate Education, Residence Life, the Advising and Learning Assistance Center, the Office of the First-Year Experience, Enrollment Management, Campus Planning and Facilities Design, the School of Architecture, the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, and numerous academic departments.
Several other themed living options are part of the Residence Life community at Rensselaer, including: Ground Zero, a community for arts, music, and culture; Leadership House, which provides student leader development for first-year students; and Wellness House, a community for first-year students with an opportunity to learn and practice a holistic approach to making their minds and bodies healthier.
Hajela noted that Vasudha will also tie into Rensselaer’s C.L.A.S.S initiative. “Clustered Learning, Advocacy and Support for Students” aims to transform the student experience by elevating the quality of support for students throughout the undergraduate years. The new student life model is Rensselaer’s effort to create a unique residential undergraduate college within a world-class technological research university.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute