Headington College, along with Dunham College, which front along Lindsey Street across from OU’s football stadium, will be a major new feature of university life soon. Photo by Naaman Henager/OIDJ

Residential Colleges offer a clean slate to create community at OU


It’s rare in life that you get a clean slate to make new traditions, develop communities and decide the future.

In fall 2017, students at The University of Oklahoma will do just that in Headington and Dunham colleges.

Traditions, rules and programs will be governed by the students in the facilities being built directly south of OU’s football stadium. A residential college is a small, intimate environment in a larger university. In OU’s new colleges, academic life will be led by the senior fellows. Alumni and guests will share their knowledge creatively throughout the college.

“When you create a space, you create it for a purpose,” said Dr. Keith Gaddie, senior fellow of Headington College.

Headington and Dunham colleges both will create student involvement opportunities. Whether it be with a roommate, at an event or just studying. Expectations and rules will be made by the students, ultimately leading them to govern the college. That framework will become the government of the new spaces.

“Building a team matters,” Gaddie said.

These colleges are available to only upperclassmen. Throughout the school year, elective classes will be available to the residents and other students. According to the article, A Guide to the OU Residential Colleges, the colleges will accommodate 300 students.

“We want the traditions to grow organically,” said Parker Randels, residential mentor of Headington College. Although the residential colleges are modeled after Yale University’s, they are different. Students will be able to plan programs, study with friends and take trips across Oklahoma. For the first year that’s what these students will do – create a community inside these colleges that will last forever.

Traditions won’t be carried over from the dorm towers; students will create their own. Randels said the few incoming students he has met were very bright and the possibilities are endless with them governing the college.

“It’s a way to be a part of something brand new,” said Zac Stevens, assistant senior fellow of Dunham College. In these colleges, there will be a greater faculty to student ratio, providing for a more one-on-one interaction, Gaddie said.

Students will be encouraged to be engaged in the community around them.

“It has to be toward something better. Something that makes the individual better and makes the world around them better,” Gaddie said. Students will get a programming budget and where and how they spend it is up to them. Gaddie and Dunham Senior Fellow Mark Morvant will oversee that budget making sure the students don’t exceed it.

“A college is a living place where people come together as one,” Randels said.

The colleges will appeal to people who are interested in being leaders, Gaddie said.

OU doesn’t teach vocation, Gaddie said, it teaches leadership, and the Residential Colleges will be a new community taking up that charge.

For more information, visit the Residential Colleges website or the OU Housing and Food blog.