No Place Like Home

As the University of Texas at Austin launches a Living Learning Community for incoming freshman seeking a sober, healthy lifestyle this fall, it sends a message that students in recovery are welcome and valued.

Come the fall semester at the University of Texas at Austin, incoming freshmen in recovery will be able to leave their sober residence hall and take a short, tranquil walk across a creek to the Center for Students in Recovery (CSR) for meetings and social events. When they retire to their rooms after a long day at class, they can relax

and study surrounded by like-minded individuals dedicated to a life of recovery and wellness.

Welcome to the Healthy Lifestyles Living Learning Community (LLC), one of five new LLCs being launched at the university this fall as part of a joint initiative by the CSR and the Division of Housing and Food Services. Housed in a wing in the Moore-Hill Residence Hall, the community of up to 24 students will emphasize sober, healthy living and provide education and social events.

Living Learning Communities — residence halls for freshmen who share academic goals and interests — have been fixtures on college campuses in some form since the 1980s. Through specialized programming and experiences, LLCs seek to increase students’ engagement with faculty and staff and improve their satisfaction on campus, which leads to student success and retention.

“It was the right timing for both parties. We are both part of the Division of Student Affairs, which made collaborating easy,” says Sierra Castedo, director of the CSR. “On-campus recovery support housing has been a dream of ours for a long time, but we faced many of the same facility challenges as other campuses. The Housing division knew we had that dream and approached us when they started planning the LLCs in early 2016.”

Aaron Voyles, Housing and Food Service associate director for student learning and development, notes that when investigating focuses for the LLCs, the planning committee sought areas where there was a student need that could be solved by a residential initiative. The Healthy Lifestyles Living Learning Community joins four other LLCs launching this fall: Women in Engineering, Women in Natural Science, Sustainability and Global.

Revving Up for Residents

When the call from Voyles came, Castedo was ready to go. The four-year veteran of the CSR had long been researching other universities’ recovery housing models and making calls to learn how they worked and how they interfaced with the campus recovery programs and the rest of campus. “We knew what the rules were and the types of students we should seek to make it successful,” she says.

In addition to serving students in recovery, Castedo and Voyles decided the LLC would be a home for those who want to live a substance-free lifestyle for any other reason. “The LLC is based on the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model, which is a holistic view of a person and building wellness in respect to recovery,” Castedo says, “but it is inclusive to students who are in established recovery or are just interested in living a sober lifestyle with additional wellness and social support.”

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