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Inside the 4D House

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Emma Atkinson

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Campus Life  •

University of Denver students live the 4D Experience by balancing academics and well-being.

an exterior photo of the 4D House.

Right in the middle of the University of Denver campus sits a large house. It’s perfectly situated adjacent to the green space right outside the Community Commons, with easy access to the law building, the career center, DU’s athletics complex and more.

Inside, comfy couches line a large great room, while tables covered in art supplies and puzzles in progress take up the majority of a sunny side room. It’s cozy and comfy—much like a college dorm or a Greek house.

This is the 4D House, the home of 20 second-year students who are committed to learning about and benefiting from the 4D Experience.

Libby Williamson, a strategic communications major, is one of those students. Her relationship with 4D runs deep—she’s the 4D house lead and also serves as a 4D peer mentor for first-year students.

She’s enthusiastic about the programming that is offered to students in the 4D House, including intimate “fireside chats” with faculty, biweekly in-house events like “paint and sip,” and larger quarterly events that aim to include the whole campus. In addition to living in the 4D House, Williamson also helps to plan the bulk of events that involve the house.

“We have this really fun mix of programming that the 4D Department puts on for us, where it's a good mix of academic growth and a focus on wellbeing, generally,” she says. “We try to plan events that align with each of the four dimensions.”

Williamson says she feels like she has a special relationship with the 4D Experience.

“It’s been a really, really integral part of my student experience,” she says. “On a personal level, 4D means a lot in terms of my educational experience, and I feel like DU makes it really easy to take to heart the four dimensions and really implement them in our lives.”

Libby Williamson sits on her bed in her room at the 4D House.

Libby Williamson sits on her bed in her room at the 4D House

Sam Anderson-Lehman, associate director of 4D mentoring and planning, says the idea behind the house was to grow a community of holistically-minded students through structured events and programming that tie into the existing 4D Experience infrastructure.

“We've had our faculty director of innovation [Erin Willer] come in and talk about how being in college takes courage, and students made courage crowns; or our faculty fellow for character [Cris Tietsort] came in and talked about character development, about how to show compassion in the conversations we have,” Anderson-Lehman explains.

This past fall quarter, the 4D House hosted an event centered around sleep wellness, where students were invited to cozy up in the Community Commons to watch a movie and eat cereal—all while being encouraged to learn about how sleep can affect their health.

“Right before the movie started, we had a slideshow that had data from DU students about how many hours of sleep people are getting and what ways that something like, say, a sleep mask can really help you to have a better night's sleep,” Anderson-Lehman says.

Audrey Townsend, director of 4D experiential learning, emphasizes that the programming is meant to strengthen students' relationship to the 4D Experience.

"A great example is our Leap Day event that we just did," she says. "It was frog-themed and we did vision boarding, which to me, says, 'Let's talk a little bit about purpose. Let's talk a little bit about where we want to be in four years, at that next Leap Day. Let's think about what that looks like for us.' I think of the 4D House as a chance to be a laboratory for imagining what a residential experience at DU can be."

Williamson says that 4D has helped her learn to counter the stressors of academics with the importance of well-being.

“I think it's really important to find that balance, especially in an environment where you are striving to succeed academically and planning for your future and exploring the things that are important to you, while also prioritizing your health and your wellness—and trying really hard to find and develop that sense of balance now,” Williamson says. “Because I think that'll serve us all really well later in life.”

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