No Place Like Home
Students in recovery from eating disorders or other behavioral disorders, who are also welcome at the CSR, can apply to live at the LLC as long as they are willing to make a sober lifestyle commitment.
“A big component of this community is acknowledging that our students experience college in one flow: They don’t just have ‘class life,’ ‘residence hall life’ and ‘dining hall life.’ All those elements are interwoven into the collegiate experience,” says Castedo. “We wanted to provide housing opportunities that connected all those elements and serve as an extension for students who wanted to live a substance-free life rather than live in a vacuum.”
Programming is key. “A successful LLC provides a holistic approach to education. It builds a curriculum that combines in-classroom and out-of-classroom experiences, which improves students’ GPAs, graduation rates, satisfaction and sense of belonging,” says Voyles. “We took that model and applied it to themes and interests, including recovery. For programming, we connected with the CSR to build a curriculum around wellness and recovery and to fit into what that means for the residential life.”
Students in the LLC will be grouped together in a wing of Moore-Hill, which otherwise is a standard residence hall housing 390 students. “By keeping them together, the LLC students will know they are in a truly supportive environment,” says Voyles. However, he notes, since most of students in the residence halls are under 21, the legal age for drinking, alcohol use is prohibited throughout the entire dorm.
Welcoming the First Class
Since this is the first year that UTA is offering LLCs, Voyles and Castedo decided on a conservative approach. Citing research on LLCs that suggest communities are most effective when they have less than 40 students, Castedo says they are seeking 12 to 24 students for the first year. “We are fortunate that housing is allowing us a lot of flexibility this first year,” she notes. “This range lets us assess the demand and what we might need to expand the community if the need is there. We want to have some latitude to decide who is right for creating a strong community this first year.”
To promote the LLC, Voyles and Castedo offered an information session for over 40 high school students from the recovery high schools in Houston and Austin (see page 11) as well as those from recovery peer groups and treatment programs who attended the CSR’s sober tailgate last fall. “We encouraged them to reach out to our students in the CSR for mentoring ahead of time,” Castedo says.
Students who express an interest in the Healthy Lifestyles LLC when they receive their housing contract will be sent an application, which will be evaluated by CSR staff. “We want to see that the student is the one who is really interested in joining the LLC. We want to avoid anyone who seems to be coerced or not interested in participating fully,” says Castedo. “We want to see dedication to recovery, wellness and continued growth. Beyond that, we want to see applicants who show a commitment to supporting one another since that peer support element will be key.”