The first lesson of university housing 101: Dorm is a four-letter word.
For most students, "home sweet home" isn't the 10 square feet of space they inhabit in their university residence halls. It's the smell of Mom's cooking and the sound of siblings fighting. Home, however, is exactly the feeling that Executive Director of University Housing Jeff Hale and Assistant Director Melissa Wintrow work to create throughout the residence hall system at Boise State.
"When we build environments and spaces," says Wintrow, "we try to create a sense of home in this residential hall and to help students develop a sense of 'Who I am as a Bronco.'" The first step in this process is understanding that a dorm is a sterile barrack space for a single person. A residence hall, on the other hand, is the entire community of which students are a part.
The second lesson of university housing 101: Hale and Wintrow, who both lived in university residence halls for many years, say that studies show that retention and degree completion rates are better among students who have lived on campus.
Although Boise State has had a reputation for being a "commuter campus," there are 100 more students on campus this year than last, bringing the total to 1,600 (with an additional 500 students living in university apartments), and the university has had to find some creative solutions to house students. Last year, University Inn became a temporary residential hall (the lot is slated to become the site of the business college in the very near future), and this year, the extra demand for bed space was met by re-converting offices and single rooms back into doubles. Next year, Hale says, his job will require even more creativity, with housing demands expected to continue to increase. High demand for student housing coupled with the demolition of University Inn may actually require the university to turn away students applying for housing.
If this happens, Hale says students would be accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis, but a priority for his department is to focus on first-year students.
"Students who start on campus do better socially and academically," explains Hale. Those students who start their college experience feeling connected to the school, the faculty and other students are more likely to not only finish their university experience feeling more satisfied, but also to stay connected as as alumni.
The last lesson of university housing 101: Even a university living experience is a learning experience.
"It's not all bricks and mortar," says Hale. "Everything should be about learning, and [residence halls] are crucial to the academic environment and learning process."
The philosophy that a college education extends beyond the classroom and into the dorm room, if you will, has spawned a movement nationwide to create residential colleges in which students of the same major or similar academic goals are housed together with a faculty member.
"One of the most important things in a university experience is the contact you have," advocates Wintrow. "You take what you learn in a classroom, and the reflection on that takes place after that fact, and that's where you learn—when you come back to your hall and talk to other students and synthesize information."
Friday, Sept. 14, 5-7 p.m., in the Kaiser Hall court, University Housing hosts a cookout for any current and former students who have lived in one of Boise State's residence halls. For more information, call 208-447-1001.