AUSTIN (KXAN) — This fall University of Texas at Austin will launch “living learning communities” inside already existing residence halls. Among these is the Healthy Lifestyles Community which will bring together students who are committed to sober living.
The community will house around 25 students in Moore-Hill Hall where they will share a wing of the dorm, bathrooms and common activities such as guest speakers.
“A living learning community is really just a specialized housing option that we have and they’re designed to integrate the inside-classroom experience or other interests with their living space,” explained Aaron Voyles, who is the director for Student Learning and Development in UT’s Division of Housing and Food Service.
“Being in recovery isn’t a requirement. What is a requirement is refraining from the use of intoxicating substances while in our residential area, and also wanting to pursue goals related to wellness and balance,” Voyles said of the Healthy Lifestyles Community. “It came out of a need and a want of students who are in recovery to feel like they had a safe space on campus and a community who was gonna be supportive of them. So it really grew out of a lot of the programs that we at UT are already doing for our students.”
Sierra Castedo runs the Center for Students in Recovery at UT Austin who is partnering to build the Healthy Lifestyles community. She said the Center has been dreaming of creating a living community like this for a long time.
“We’ve never really had an easy answer when it comes to students wanting to live in a residence hall that’s supportive of their recovery, and now we finally get to do that,” Castedo said. “This partnership with housing allows a space for students who choose a sober lifestyle to be absolutely in the norm.”
Castedo knows firsthand the value of on-campus recovery resources, she came to UT as a graduate student with an alcohol addiction, but was able to recover thanks to the CSR.
“There’s a lot of really really bright individuals who come here for undergraduate, for graduate or professional school and are excelling academically, but are really suffering on the inside,” Castedo said.
“The interesting thing about Austin is we actually have a big, vibrant and very young recovery community and that’s been around for kind of a long time. We’ve always had this natural need, there’s this big group of young people who are sober and in recovery who are coming back to school at UT. There’s also this opioid epidemic that is sweeping the nation, and while Texas hasn’t been as hard hit as some other states, it’s still something we need to take care of and something we need to support our students with.”
The other Living Learning Communities include the Global Community which will house a mix of domestic and international students, the Women in Engineering Community in partnership with the Cockrell School of Engineering, the Women in Natural Sciences Community in partnership with the College of Natural Sciences and the Sustainability Community in partnership with UT Food Services and the Office of Sustainability.
All five of these communities will house roughly 200 students in total. UT Housing reports an “overwhelming” degree of interest in these communities, over 980 percent of their current capacity. Consequently, UT Housing anticipates growing the living and learning community further in future years.