Students today live a 24/7 lifestyle, so residential life and campus dining teams are adapting to improve student services, wellness, and opportunities for community engagement. An increasing number of campuses are integrating food into the residence hall – not only in apartments and suite-style units, but also as focused community spaces that serve residents in a variety of ways. Vibrant social spaces with soft seating, flexible furniture, and a kitchen or food-prep area are popular with good reason: food has always served a cultural function – at the center of social occasions and even unifying regions. In a residence hall, integrating community kitchens and/or a food-service function can highlight the importance that food plays in wellness, education and culture. A kitchen can support residential life programming, enable students to share their culinary heritage, and logistically complement somewhat limited weekend or late-night food service elsewhere on campus. Our recent projects with Trinity College, Duke University, and Pace University integrate food service in varying ways to enhance residential life programs and enrich the student experience.
Our research assesses how shared space types facilitate learning within the University of Michigan’s North Quad Academic & Housing Complex.
We systematically investigate the impact of the spatial environment itself on student engagement, perceived experience, and sense of community. Our investigations at Michigan State University build on our living-learning research at the University of Michigan to provide evidence to how the architectural design of college residence halls impacts student engagement and development.
Residential community spaces, including lounges and study areas, come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are crucial to the engagement of students within residence halls. In an article for StudentHousingBusiness.com, EYP student life planner Sara Stein shares our research demonstrating the value – to individuals, the campus community, and the institution – of including an adequate number of flexible community spaces.
An engaged student population builds a strong sense of community, which then directly links back to individual student satisfaction. Engaged and involved students are much more likely to stay on campus at their institution, give back to the community at large, and likely contribute back to their campus as alumni.
As American colleges and universities increasingly recognize the value of educating the “whole student,” the effect of campus residential life on various student outcomes – campus engagement, peer interactions, etc. – has been the subject of ongoing study. EYP is the first to systematically investigate the impact of the spatial environment itself on student development, attitudes, and outcomes. Our Living-Learning research findings offer colleges and universities, as well as architects and builders, key insights into how space types and usage impact student learning and development, so that they can maximize resources to enhance student experience.
The purpose of this study is to assess how key spaces in residence halls (i.e., living-learning spaces vs. traditional residence halls) create environments that are conducive to student learning.