Living in one of the student rooms in Thomas Jefferson’s original “Academical Village” is a privilege reserved for only a few fourth-year University of Virginia students, selected by a committee for their impact on the University community.
Now that next year’s Lawn residents have been selected, we thought it would be fun to ask some current residents – or “Lawnies” – for their best advice for the new comers.
A few common themes emerged: keep your door open and host social events. Some of the tips were light-hearted; others, deeply provocative.
This year, 282 people applied for a spot in one of 54 of the iconic rooms that line the east and west sides of the Lawn. Selection committee members strive to create a diverse and talented community of people who excel in their respective fields of activity and academics. Selfless service to the University and surrounding community is also a must.
The five current Lawn residents we polled exemplify all of these ideals. Here, in no certain order, are their tips for next year’s Lawnies.
“Everyone will tell you to leave your door open and let people look into your room. Go a step further; invite those people in. Some of the best interactions and experiences I’ve had this year started by waving to a parent looking into my room or introducing myself to people walking by. Whether it was a family from my hometown or one of the gardeners who makes the Lawn look spectacular, those are the people I’ll remember for years.
“Living on the Lawn, there’s almost always something going on around you – a club meeting, a party, an impromptu performance, etc. It’s easy to get so swept up attending other people’s events that you forget to host your own. Even if it’s just a weekly lunch, a board game night, or a “ski lodge day” on a cold and wet Saturday, make sure you take your opportunity to bring people together in your space.
“You might not have a toilet, a kitchen, or air conditioning (spoiler alert – you don’t), but you do get to wake up on the Lawn every morning. Take a moment to appreciate that experience whenever you open your door in the morning, even if you’re opening your door to trudge through the snow to shower.”
“Really make the room yours: fill it with the people, images and sounds that speak to your soul. Even if this space wasn’t built to serve you, claim it as your own.”
Walnut Creek, California
“Enslaved laborers laid the bricks that form the Academical Village. The Rotunda flew Virginia’s first Confederate flag. Pavilion II depicts the Temple of Masculine Virtue, building Jefferson’s vision for a wholly male student body into the Lawn’s architecture. Our founder envisioned a vastly different community than presently exists. On his terms, I wouldn’t live here.
“History considered, incoming Lawn residents should prioritize inclusivity. They should embrace each other’s offerings, but never be insular – sharing themselves, their passions, and the space with the greater University. Open doors and welcoming words serve as great starting points!”
“Keep your Lawn room neat and tidy because you’ll always have visitors.
“There’s never a quiet moment on the Lawn, but don’t hesitate to take time out for yourself.
“Even as a fourth-year, be open to making new and lifelong friends!”
“Living on the Lawn has been one of the best experiences I’ve had as a college student and I hope you’ll be saying the same at the end of your tenure. One of the most powerful opportunities that it provides is the chance to give back to the University and your respective involvements in a grander and more influential fashion.
“Beyond hosting and socializing, your room can serve as a significant agent of change used to reach the darkest corners of the University. At some point in the year, whether intentional or not, you will reminisce about your first year and reflect on how you first felt about the Lawn, as well as the University. Due to a gamut of personal experience and background, the Lawn can easily be viewed as intimidating, mysterious or unwelcoming in the eyes of students – perspectives which you may relate to. This fact is something that can be easily forgotten at the exciting outset of moving into your room, setting down into your social spheres, contracting “fourth-year-itis” and being consumed with post-graduation plans. I challenge you to never forget this. Improving a culture takes time, but as long as generations of Lawn residents continue to push the frontier of unbiased hospitality and are always mindful of the opportunity they have been given, solidarity and unity within the UVA community will only continue to grow stronger and brighter.”