Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Campus Village: Students Making Dorm Rooms More Livable

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Campus Village: Students Making Dorm Rooms More Livable

Article excerpt

THE ARCHITECTURE is by Thomas Jefferson, in the Palladian style. But the decor is by Virginia Norton, in English Garden.

Norton is a fourth-year student who lives in one of the colonnaded buildings lining the University of Virginia's original campus, the venerable Lawn.

An ivy-patterned doormat sits before her threshold swaybacked by generations of students who have lived there since the school that Thomas Jefferson designed opened in 1825.

The walls of her 10-foot-square cube of a room are bordered with rose-pattern paper. The floral motif continues in the curtains, dried flowers and a bowl of potpourri that sits beside copies of Martha Stewart Living and Antiques. On the mantel is a tiara, a remembrance of Norton's participation in a Miss Virginia pageant.

"I see students making their rooms look more like a home," she said. "It makes you a better student, a better friend, if your environment is user-friendly."

Norton is the head resident of the Lawn, a position whose responsibilities include curbing Frisbee games that threaten 160-year-old windowpanes. She is also in charge of social events. "My job," she said, "is encouraging a sense of community."

Domesticity and community: the two words are among those most repeated to students as they return to campuses this fall. From Berkeley, Calif., to Baltimore, many universities are trying to re-create the high ideals of Jefferson's academical village, as he called the Lawn.

His conviction, that to learn properly you have to live properly, was built into the foundations of American higher education at the school, the country's first residential college, where he put living quarters for students and faculty members and classrooms together in buildings that he called pavilions.

The re-emphasis on Jefferson's ideas is part of an effort by educators nationwide to promote a more collegial approach to learning and to teach students to work with others. These values are reflected in changing designs of new student residences. …

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