The Collegian
Friday, September 25, 2020

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Earth Lodge "identity" ensures its survival as adviser departs

Students and faculty have discussed how to maintain the core values of the Earth Lodge program after Lee Carleton, the current adviser for the program, leaves the University of Richmond after this semester, said Andy Gurka, director of living-learning and Roadmap programs.

Despite concerns from students that the Earth Lodge program might disappear after Carleton leaves, Gurka said the school never had the intention to eliminate the Earth Lodge program.

"The only way that the Earth Lodge will ever go away is that if we didn't have students who were interested in participating in it," Gurka said, "but the interest is high."

The Earth Lodge program was started by Carleton in 2005 as one of the first living-learning communities. It combined the study of literature and experience in nature, according to the office of living-learning and Roadmap programs. Among its core values are "diversity of thought" and "learning about self and others by exploring the natural world," according to its website.

Gurka said that he had engaged past and current students of Earth Lodge in a process to develop what they saw as its identity and values, and asked for their input and recommendations of faculty who they thought would fit those identity and values.

"We are in the process of talking to some faculty members to gauge their interest, to see if they are interested in assuming that faculty adviser, faculty mentor role in the Earth Lodge," he said.

Senior Molly Schaefer, who was an Earth Lodge student her freshman year and its Resident Assistant her junior year, described one of the core values of Earth Lodge as "the tangible feeling that makes you feel so at home and so included." She said Carleton's role as an adviser had been an important part of the program.

"I think that the university will be hard-set to find someone who can act as the kind of mentor that Lee was," Schaefer said. "He connects with the students in a way that I have never seen professors connect with students before."

She said Carleton had gotten to know all the Earth Lodge students so well that he had basically became a personal mentor for them.

"He has given it its values," she said. "He has helped define its values. And finding a professor that will share those values and wants to help them continue is really, really important."

Gurka said the program should continue to thrive even with a new adviser.

"Even if the faculty member changes, there is still this kind of core identity to what it means to belong, to be part of Earth Lodge, and that will continue to be the same," Gurka said.

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Contact reporter Masato Tsuruta at masato.tsuruta@richmond.edu

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