Virginia Tech has selected a faculty member and a staff member to lead the second phase in the university’s new residential college initiative.

Benjamin Sax, assistant professor for the Department of Religion and Culture in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, has accepted the position of faculty principal of the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston. Jennifer Quijano Sax, assistant program director for Education Abroad in the Office of International Research, Education, and Development, has accepted the role of Senior Fellow. 

They will live in the faculty apartment of the residential college, which will house more than 800 student members in fall 2012.

The Residential College at West Ambler Johnston will be open to students from all majors, disciplines, and class years. The residential college model offers an intensive, engaging small-college experience for students at a large research university, and the diversity of ages and academic disciplines encourages learning from peers, faculty, and staff. 

The new residential college follows the Honors Residential College at East Ambler Johnston, which opened fall 2011 for more than 300 University Honors students. Heather Gumbert, assistant professor of history, and Robert Stephens, associate professor of history, are currently serving as as faculty principals of the Honors Residential College.

“Ben and Jenny served in a similar capacity as graduate students at the University of Chicago and speak from first-hand experience how the residential college model bridges the academic and student life divide, and nurtures a sense of communal leadership among faculty, staff, and students,” said Frank Shushok, associate vice president for student affairs. “Ben and Jenny are among the most thoughtful, intelligent, humane, and interesting people I know. Who better for our students to live among, and learn from, in the day-to-day format that a residential college provides?”

As leaders responsible for the intellectual and social culture of the residential college, the faculty principal and senior fellow will facilitate guest lectures, regular social activities, and co-curricular programs to bring faculty and representatives from across disciplines into the residential college and build a strong community among residents.

“Jenny and I are thrilled and honored to return to a residential college,” said Benjamin Sax. “We are equally delighted that Virginia Tech has invested the time and energy in making this a reality for students. We believe the residential college model is exactly what Virginia Tech needs to continue to attract the most curious students from across the commonwealth, nation, and world, to give them a home in which they can craft their respective identities and areas of expertise and gain confidence as they develop into responsible global citizens and take on the challenge of leading our world into the next century."

The residential colleges also provide a unique opportunity for collaboration between academic affairs and student affairs programs within the university.

“I welcome the selection of Ben Sax and Jennifer Quijano Sax as the faculty principal and senior fellow, respectively, of the new Residential College at West Ambler Johnston,” said Sue Ott Rowlands, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “Ben and Jennifer will encourage a dynamic, intellectually rich environment in the college and, I know, are enthusiastic about the possibilities of this new residential setting.”

Benjamin Sax has taught Judaic Studies at Virginia Tech since 2008, after teaching religious studies for DePaul University in Chicago. He earned his Ph.D. in the history of Judaism from the University of Chicago, as well as a Master of Arts degree in religious studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a bachelor’s degree in social thought and political economy from the University of Massachusetts.

Before working with the Office of International Research, Education, and Development, Jennifer Sax served as assistant director of Virginia Tech’s Cranwell International Center. She earned a Master of Arts degree in religious studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and bachelor’s degrees in religion and French from Middlebury College.

Applications for the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston are available for students new to Virginia Tech at the residential college’s website. The application period for returning students has been completed for the 2012-13 school year.

The residential college initiative is part of a larger effort across Virginia Tech to merge the academic and social worlds of students so that intellectual development occurs in all areas of their lives. These initiatives are designed to promote learning on a broader scale, as well as to complement the Division of Student Affairs’ five aspirations for student learning: unwavering curiosity, self-understanding and integrity, civility, courageous leadership, and the values of the university’s motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).