On-campus housing at UNCW began with a single residence hall in 1971 that housed 400 students. Today, the Office of Housing and Residence Life (HRL) manages 45 residential buildings that include traditional residence halls, residence suites, and apartments. Collectively, these buildings house over 4,100 students, representing nearly 40% of the undergraduate population. Although UNCW does not require any students to live on campus, housing facilities have maintained nearly 100% occupancy rates during the fall semesters for the past ten years.
With the variety of housing styles, students have the ability to stay on campus 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In order to meet the needs of a large residential population with a constant presence, HRL currently employs 24 full-time staff members, 10 graduate staff members, and approximately 190 undergraduate student staff members. Ninety-six residence life staff members live in the residence halls and assist residents in numerous ways, ranging form mediating roommate disputes to assisting in emergencies.
HRL has always worked to provide innovative facilities beginning with the first residence hall. When it opened in 1971, it was the first air conditioned residence hall in the University of North Carolina system. The innovation continues with UNCW's newest housing project, Seahawk Crossing, which is the first LEED certified project at UNCW meaning it has received independent, third-party verification that the building is environmentally responsible and a healthy place to live and work. Today's residence halls include wireless internet and cable TV. Many of the on-campus apartments feature fully equipped kitchens and washers and dryers in each apartment. Newer housing complexes have amenities such as swimming pools, fitness centers, and convenience stores.
HRL's mission goes beyond simply providing students with a place to sleep, and the department strives to "appropriately challenge residents to develop to their full potential by supporting their educational growth and personal development." This is done in a variety of ways, including offering specialty housing, providing opportunities to serve in student government, and facilitating study at other institutions.
There are many types of specialty housing. The Honors Scholars Program provides academically talented students a variety of innovative and unique educational experiences, both in and out of the classroom. First-year Honors Scholars who choose to live on campus may be assigned to Honors Housing to nurture a living and learning environment.
The International House is a living-learning environment shared by students from the United States and abroad, and provides a culturally rich environment where residents of all backgrounds learn and grow from their shared experiences. In choosing to live in the International House, each resident agrees to take an active part in the life of the building. From participation in the house government to cooking international holiday dinners and joining the International Student Organization, each member of the house is a vital part of the community.
Cornerstone Hall is the home of eight Learning Communities, which each consist of 25 students who live together and take approximately half of their academic load within this living-learning environment. Four state-of-the-art classrooms exist within Cornerstone for the exclusive use of Learning Communities, and UNCW faculty members travel to the residence hall to teach these classes.
Schwartz Hall offers three additional special lifestyle options. The Wellness Community Floor students the unique opportunity to live in a community where all residents agree that neither they nor their guests will possess or consume tobacco products, illegal drugs, or beverages containing alcohol. The Education/ Teaching Fellows floor houses UNCW's Teaching Fellows and other freshmen who plan to major in education. This setting allows students to establish a network of future colleagues and participate in special programs related to education issues provided by the resident assistant who is also a Teaching Fellow or Education major. There is also a floor dedicated to the Men of Teal community.
Beyond specialty housing, HRL offers students the ability to participate in the Residence Hall Association (RHA) which is the governing body for the on-campus student population. RHA holds weekly meetings where student concerns are addressed and programs are planned. RHA plans campus programming including large scale campus events and in-hall activities. RHA also hosts a campus visitation program for incoming first-year students. Students in RHA attend conferences each year which allow student housing leaders to share their experiences and network with representatives from other campuses.