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Housing and Residence Life launches Connect2Grounds for rising second-year students

Connect2Grounds will continue to build community and prepare second year students for the rest of their time at U.Va. after COVID-19 resulted in many lost opportunities

<p>Currently, 84 rising second years are assigned to live in the Johnson, Malone and Weedon dorms while another 295 are assigned to Lambeth Apartments. &nbsp;</p>

Currently, 84 rising second years are assigned to live in the Johnson, Malone and Weedon dorms while another 295 are assigned to Lambeth Apartments.  

Connect2Grounds — a new program created by Housing and Residence Life for the 2021-2022 academic year — aims to create a community among second-year students who missed out on first-year experiences due to COVID-19. The initiative hopes to provide students with stronger connections to University faculty, staff and peers while also providing fun community events.

The application — which was due on Feb. 25 — was included in the standard application for on-Grounds housing available to all rising second years. Students who did not live on Grounds for the 2020-2021 academic year were especially encouraged to apply as a way to still have a residential experience at the University. 

Of the 1,104 rising second years who applied to live on Grounds next year, 386 are taking part in the Connect2Grounds program. 

According to University spokesperson Wes Hester, those who lived off Grounds this year received a special postcard earlier in the semester announcing the new program and inviting them to apply. First-year students who did live on Grounds, however, still have the opportunity to join the program. 

HRL is launching Connect2Grounds at a time when many students missed out on the classical residential experiences due COVID-19 restrictions, but the program will remain in place even after the pandemic has ended as a long term initiative to create more meaningful housing opportunities. 

The program will offer many events including a fall 2021 convocation, meet and greets and block parties in the Runk Plaza and at Lambeth Apartments. Fall convocation is typically a rite of passage into the University for new students, but due to the pandemic, the ceremony was held virtually last year. Community is an important aspect of Connect2Grounds in addition to its goal of connecting students to a variety of resources at the University through academic and career advising. 

“The program goals include creating vibrant communities for all residents,” Hester said.

First-year Engineering student William Jones currently lives on Grounds but still feels like he missed out on the experiences that are generally associated with the first-year residential experience. Jones hopes Connect2Grounds will make up for those lost moments. 

“I knew I would still enjoy being here in Charlottesville and meeting new people and making memories,” Jones said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “I also knew that I wanted another chance to experience things I might've missed out on.”

Connect2Grounds will offer two “hubs” depending on the desired experience and prior first year living situation. Lambeth Apartments will serve students who lived on Grounds first year or those who desire a more independent environment. Johnson, Malone and Weedon houses are mainly targeted to students who did not live on Grounds or those who desire the traditional residence hall. 

Eighty-four rising second years who are taking part in the program are assigned to live in the Johnson, Malone and Weedon dorms while another 295 are assigned to Lambeth Apartments. 

The Board of Visitors has previously considered creating a requirement for all first and second years to live on-Grounds, but this initiative has not yet come to fruition due to space constraints. 

“There currently is not enough capacity to house all second-year students on Grounds and any such requirement is still years away,” Hester said. 

While this requirement is still just in the planning stages, the new Connect2Grounds program allows for a step in that direction by offering an opportunity for another year of community-based living. 

The HRL website outlines the goals of the program and includes a short webinar to help students learn more about the purpose of this new initiative. According to the website, “second-year students will learn both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills as they actively participate in a shared living environment; develop leadership, communication, and practical skills; and create connections within the University and greater Charlottesville community.” 

Jones will be living at the Lambeth Apartments with a friend from his current dorm. They opted to have their two other roommates randomly selected as a way to meet additional people. 

“I'm most excited about meeting all of the other people who want to make the same meaningful connections as I do and being able to experience everything with them,” Jones said.

To further increase the value of Connect2Grounds, third- and fourth-year students will serve as residential advisors for both “hubs”. RAs are valuable resources for information and support and play a crucial role in creating community building events. HRL will provide these RAs with training specifically tailored to meet the needs of second years. 

“I hope to experience some of the things that make the traditional first year experience what it is supposed to be that I wasn't able to take part in this year,” Jones said.