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Amy M. Wolaver is an Associate Professor of Economics and Director of the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy at Bucknell University.

Kelly Finley is the Program Director of the Residential College Program at Bucknell University.


residential learning communities, first-year students, engagement with diversity, HIPs


Using the National Survey of Student Engagement and multivariate regression techniques, we examine the impact of a first-year residential learning community (RLC) at a predominately White small liberal arts institution. This program disproportionately attracts students of color, providing structural diversity. We include measures of students’ prior interest and engagement levels from the Before College Survey of Student Engagement to control for potential sample selection bias from students’ pre-existing engagement levels and expectations, allowing a better measure of the program’s effects. Despite having similar expectations about participation in future HIPs, students in this RLC completed on average 1.15 more HIPs by the end of their senior year than non-participants. In particular, they were more likely to have done research with faculty and to have held leadership positions. Additionally, White program participants were more likely than non-participants to report frequent interactions with students from different racial/ethnic backgrounds, an effect which persists to the end of their senior year. Additional analysis indicates that the programming in the RLC, and not simply the structural diversity of residence component, is the likely driver of this increased engagement with diverse others.