Garrett Kluthe ’26 was searching for a campus housing option where he could connect with fellow engineering students and benefit from their shared experiences.
Drew Nutt ’26 was looking for a home, not just a place to sleep after a long day of classes.
Valleri Freibauer ’26 wanted to live with people who understand what it’s like to be part of the LGBTQ+ community and who would accept them without question.
All three of these first-year students, and many others like them, have found that sense of community within a community through Widener University’s specialty housing.
The university offers a range of housing options – from traditional residence halls to suite and apartment-style living, to fraternity and sorority houses.
Within many of these options, Widener has built and fostered specialty housing communities to further promote a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
Kluthe joined a Living Learning Community (LLC), a unique living experience that brings together people based on shared academic majors, interests, or themes. Students live together in designated residence halls or sections of residence halls.
LLCs also bring academics into the residential space through on-site classes, exclusive programming, and opportunities to interact with faculty and administrators.
“Day one we already had a group forming. It really has lived up to what I expected and probably more,” said Kluthe, a civil engineering major who is living in the Engineering LLC.
Evidence shows that students pursuing rigorous academic programs, like engineering or nursing, have a greater ability to persist when living in communities with students of the same major, said Sarah Williamson, assistant dean of students for residence life.
“There’s a ‘we can do this together’ mentality,” said Williamson. “Students can lean on each other as they work through their first year in similar academic courses.”
The LLCs create intimate communities that enrich the college experience, said Kortne Smith, assistant director of the Multicultural Student Affairs Office.
That’s something first-year nursing major Anna Greydanus has felt living in the Nursing LLC.
The nursing majors formed study groups in the lounge and are able to help each other out.
Another perk to living at an LLC is that faculty have satellite offices so professors are accessible right in the residential space. There are also special programs and events for the students.
This year, members of the Business LLC attended the Philadelphia Phillies College Nights series at Citizens Bank Park. The event included a panel discussion with Phillie’s industry professionals, a networking hour with Phillies staff and students from other area colleges, and a chance to stay to watch a game.
New this fall was the 1821 Experience LLC, an extension of Widener’s pre-orientation program offered to first-year students. That program offers students a less intimidating way to begin college and a chance to get a head start on their peers with earlier access to resources and support.
The 1821 Experience LLC takes it a step further, giving students in the orientation group the chance to live together where they can “continue to foster those bonds,” said Smith.
Also new to campus housing this year is Lambda House, a gender-inclusive residence for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
That’s where Nutt, Freibauer, and others have found their place.
“It’s really like an instant family. It’s been home, and I’ve felt very comfortable there. It’s nice to have that safe space. It’s important for people to have that,” said Drew Nutt, an accounting major living in Lambda House.
Widener has previously offered gender-inclusive residential spaces in apartment and suite-style housing. But hearing from students, the university saw a need to create Lambda House, an 18-student house, which includes gender-inclusive bedrooms and bathrooms.
The house features a satellite office for Sage Milo, the university’s DEI program manager, and a meeting space for the Sexuality and Gender Alliance student group. That space is also housing a community wardrobe, comprised of clothing donations.
Students can “come and get the clothes that feel right for them,” said Milo.
As members of a new specialty housing option on campus, these residents feel a sense of ownership in the house and the ability to shape its future.
“I definitely feel like I have some kind of say, which is really cool. And it’s cool to think decisions we’re making, and things we’re trying to do, will last longer than us,” said Christina Giska ’23, the house’s resident assistant.