New housing option further affirms university's commitment to diversity, inclusiveness

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 25, 2006 – A new residential learning program that will emphasize diversity and inclusiveness will soon complement Virginia Tech's 11 theme housing communities.

The new program, "MOSAIC"—which stands for the Multicultural Opportunity Social Awareness Interest Community—will be an intercultural living environment that embraces all forms of diversity. The MOSAIC community will be available to students beginning in the fall of 2007, and will house a diverse group of first-year and returning students to encourage collaboration and a broad range of perspectives. The community will be open to all students and will be located on the first eight floors of Slusher Tower.

"MOSAIC will encourage students to engage in dialogue about social justice and diversity in a shared academic and residential environment," said Zenobia Hikes, vice president for student affairs. "It also will provide tools that enable students to move beyond tolerance to understand and empathize with people of different backgrounds. It is our hope it will create a civil and just community for Virginia Tech students, contribute to a sense of belonging for underrepresented groups, and send a clear message to everyone that multicultural and diversity issues are important here."

While other colleges and universities have multicultural living environments—including Virginia Tech’s own WORLD community—none has a community so broad in its multicultural and diversity focus. MOSAIC’s unique elements include its size (with space for about 200 students), the combination of first-year students and upperclassmen, and a required academic course.

Participating students will enroll in a three-credit course in which they can learn from each other about the individual effects of racism, ageism, homophobia, religious intolerance, and other forms of discriminatory behavior. Members of the MOSAIC community will also participate in bi-weekly residence hall programs, community-building efforts, service learning projects, faculty mentoring programs, and activities pertaining to diversity and social justice.

MOSAIC was developed at the recommendation of the Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity to address questions about the namesake of Lee Hall in 2004 and as a result of student requests for a diversity-focused housing community. Ongoing efforts to emphasize the importance of diversity at Virginia Tech led to the development of the Virginia Tech Principles of Community in 2005, a statement affirming the university's commitment to a diverse and inclusive community, which will be an important component of MOSAIC’s educational mission.

"MOSAIC is another vehicle for the university to demonstrate its commitment to educating the whole person," said Benjamin Dixon, vice president for multicultural affairs. "This program will demonstrate the university's intention to operationalize the Virginia Tech Principles of Community in real time, with real resources and real results, producing cross-culturally competent leaders and supporters of equity and inclusion in the workplace, in our institutions and in our communities."

"I can't think of a better way to promote the Virginia Tech Principles of Community," said Edward Spencer, associate vice president for student affairs and associate professor of higher education administration. "This program will allow students to live and study these important principles every day."

Ray Plaza, project specialist for diversity initiatives in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, played a role in the research, development, and approval of the new theme housing community and will serve as coordinator for the project until a permanent coordinator is selected.

The name and acronym of MOSAIC were developed by Samara Kuhn of Richmond, Va., a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Kuhn is a theme housing office assistant for Residence Life at Virginia Tech.

This project is the result of cooperation between the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Student Programs with support from the offices of the President and the Provost. Other university departments engaged in the project include the Virginia Tech Service Learning Center, Center for Academic Excellence and Enrichment, Multicultural Programs and Services, Office for Equal Opportunity, Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, and Pathways for Learning.

For more information on MOSAIC, contact Ray Plaza at 540) 231-7289. Information on theme housing programs offered at Virginia Tech and instructions for application can be found at the Student Programs website.