Is living and learning in Academic Village worth it?

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Collegian | Collegian file photo

Academic Village on Colorado State University’s campus is home to honors students and engineering students alongside Ram’s Horn Dining Center Sept. 9, 2019.

Ivy Secrest, Life and Culture Director

While some students are living in standard residence halls and some are living at Fort Collins’ Best Western University Inn, others have opted to live in Learning Communities. Academic Village houses one of the best-known living-learning communities: honors. 

The honors residence halls — Honors and Aspen halls and sections of Edwards Hall — are meant to encourage honors students to collaborate and provide them with a living space that supports their heightened workload and intense study habits. While this may sound exclusive, in 2018, the Colorado State University Honors Program reported admitting 48% of its applicants — 1,079 students.

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Dorm life took a drastic turn during the pandemic, but it is now back in full swing. Honors students can now experience the full benefits of the Learning Community, receiving support from resources like resident assistants and peers that may be less accessible in a standard dorm.

“I knew that the people in the program were very focused on their studies, and that’s the kind of community I wanted to be in,” said Thalía Muñiz, a first-year honors student majoring in environmental and natural resource economics. 

Thalía Muñiz, first year student at Colorado State University
Thalía Muñiz, a first-year student at Colorado State University majoring in environmental and natural resource economics, sits in the Academic Village Honors Hall Aug. 30. “I decided to go into honors because they offer a lot of resources, like smaller class sizes, more support for us and also help with scholarship money,” Muñiz said. (Collegian | Milo Gladstein)

Muñiz isn’t the only honors student intrigued by a shared interest in academics. This benefit is part of the Honors Program’s mission. According to their website, “honors students benefit from small, discussion-based seminars taught by some of the university’s finest faculty members, personalized academic advising, priority enrollment, opportunities for leadership, research and community service and special scholarships.”

These opportunities attract several incoming students, and they aren’t isolated benefits. For some, the Honors Learning Community can serve as a highly motivating environment that helps keep students accountable. 

“I kind of knew right away that if I wasn’t surrounded with other people who had the same sort of academic priority as I wanted to have, I would sort of fall into a groove of not putting academics first,” said Peter Novak, a first-year honors student and biomedical sciences major. 

According to both Muñiz and Novak, the Honors Program has followed through with these benefits. Everyone — from professors to RAs — has been both academically and emotionally supportive as they’ve navigated the beginning of the year. 

“I mean, everyone else keeps each other pretty accountable,” Novak said. “If someone’s studying, you’re not going to talk them out of studying to go do something.”

This kind of peer encouragement isn’t exclusive to honors students; however, it is more prominent within the Learning Communities. The students committed to creating this environment often put extra effort into maintaining it. 

“One of my friends hasn’t even really seen her RA yet,” Novak said. “And that’s like a lot of people, but I feel like everyone in the AV knows their RA pretty well.”

The honors title can be a little intimidating and create high expectations. Knowing students further along in the program, like RAs, can help alleviate the pressure. 

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“He’s not going to promise to know everything,” Novak said about his RA. “But he’ll always point us in the right direction to a resource that knows how to support us if he can’t.”

This is important because honors is not without its struggles — some feel the effects of imposter syndrome while others struggle to set healthy boundaries. 

Muñiz said not pushing themself too hard is essential for maintaining mental health, and balance in education is key. They also emphasized the support available in the program, particularly from professors. 

“As a disabled student, it is kind of difficult to get myself out there,” Muñiz said. “I get nervous, like, with my teachers because I don’t want them to think of me differently because I have to have certain accommodations.” 

Muñiz explained honors was much better at accommodating their needs than their high school had been. It has been a positive step in their education. 

The decision of whether a student should choose to apply to a Learning Community is personal. However, the benefits are clear.

“If they have the opportunity, I definitely would take it,” Novak said.  “It’s worth it if you want a … very strong sense of community to people you can rely on.”

Whether you’re looking for a community to hold you accountable or like-minded academics who will help you manage your studies, Learning Communities could be the right place to level up your education.

Reach Ivy Secrest at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @IvySecrest.