Renovated dorm provides community for ‘first scholars’



Renovations in Blanding III have given first generation students a new place to call home.

Facilitated by the First Scholars Program at UK, a living learning community now occupies the South Campus dormitory.

Matthew Deffendall, director of the First Scholars Program, said in 2010 the program had 994 first generation freshman students, which equates to 23.2 percent of the incoming freshman class.

First generation students are those who are the first in their families to attend college.

“I saw need on a much larger scale to help these students,” Deffendall said. “With that many students all living on campus, we started thinking about how this could work and where to house it.”

The program worked with other organizations to get the ball rolling on the renovations.

Committees gathered to discuss programming and other aspects, Deffendall said. The plan was presented to UK Provost Kumble Subbaswamy in June, and he awarded $30,000 to the project.

The living learning community celebrated Tuesday with an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“When we admit someone, we have an obligation to do everything in our power to help them,” Subbaswamy said at the event.

Renovations in Blanding III include new carpet, paint, televisions and furniture. Forty-eight incoming first generation freshmen were selected to live in the dormitory for the 2011-12 school year.

“I love it,” said Brittany Boreing, a pre-pharmacy freshman. “I could live here for the rest of my college career.”

The retention rates of first generation students are lower than those of the general UK population, and this program is an effort in increase those numbers, Deffendall said.

“This is a huge commitment from the university to address the need for first generation students,” he said.

Students will take Communication and Information Studies courses in the fall and spring semesters.

Office hours, workshops and study groups are among the available resources offered in the dorm.

“It gives students the opportunity to gather in that sense of community while also taking common courses,” Deffendall said.

Students living in the dorm are hopeful for the upcoming year.

“There is a big support system,” said Claudia Clarke, an undergraduate studies freshman. “They facilitate anything you need.”