“A bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a great blessing.” When the Greek poet Hesiod said this he did not know the residents of DeHority 2C or even what a college residence hall was. Today, the typical college students learn to love or hate their roommates and neighbors. Residents deal with issues ranging from alcohol to academics. Does this directly affect their college experience? Are they really not getting the life lessons they need from the psychological stresses? Most importantly; is college giving them the sense of belonging that allows them to achieve to the best of their abilities? With so many factors being put into accountability, college campuses have started to stress the importance of involvement in a residence hall to make students feel like they belong. The residence hall wing of DeHority 2C was no different when it came to this matter. Coming together and forming relationships among everyone in the hall did not just happen, but because of the “invisible hand” of college residence hall life, each individual used his or her survival skills to form a connection.
When the original college residence hall was created, it was used “to help build character and intellect”, and mainly for sleeping quarters (Bliming 1). During this time, they were called dormitories because students looked at the building only for housing, not for social or academic improvement. The slang term “dorm” is still used to describe the residence halls, “Because these are places where students live, study, learn, and sleep, most student-affairs educators use the more inclusive term residence hall” (Bliming 2). Even though the name for this facility is commonly argued, their importance is very clear. Approximately eighty percent of students’ time is spent outside of the classroom, and most of that time is spent in residence hall (Bliming 4). This simply proves that students must come up with several things to do with the rest of their time on campus and in the residence hall. With the administration trying to make halls have more importance in student life, it has started to get students involved in the hall. Today at Ball State University, the administration has created their game plan in the residence hall to help freshmen students with the big transition to college and to enhance the sense of belonging.
Ball State University is known for its commercials about its “vibrant” campus and “immersive learning”, but the campus also prides itself on its residence hall communities.
“The University currently operates seven residence halls that house nearly 7,000 students” (Ball State 2). This fact shows that the residence halls house almost half of the students that attend the university. Each of these dorms include student organizations ranging from Hall Councils to living learning communities. The largest is the co-ed LaFollette complex, which houses over 1,900 students. One residence hall on campus, Woodworth, has a female-only population and is colloquially known as “The Nunnery”. Johnson Complex consists of one eight-story building and two four-story buildings. These building are the only buildings on campus with Z-shaped rooms. All of these dorms have been around for many years, but Ball State is currently working on building more new housing facilities. In 2009, the campus opened the new DeHority Complex to house the Honors College students on campus. In 2010, Ball State plans to open Kinghorn Hall which will house a large number of students in a complex with a variety of new features. Ball State University is working hard to provide room and board that is not only being dormant, but is also providing an atmosphere to help students on many different levels.
On another hand, the people behind the construction of the residence hall area have another mindset. Architect Nadia Zhiri said that residence halls must be able to “allow easy transition between private and social areas…embrace students’ physical health, well-being, and quality of life and mitigate the feel of an institutional or artificial environment and encourage students to incorporate movement and physical fitness into their routines” (Zhiri). The brains behind the project have a sense of what is needed for students living in a residence hall because they understand that it is not just about sleeping. They realize that while it is within the same building students should be able to have alone time and also a social environment. As we look at students on a college campus, we realize that the environment helps to make students feel at home. By providing that feeling, residents have the sense of living in a space in which they are comfortable. Living in a healthy environment helps students to make a smooth transition into traditional college life. An understanding of what is required for students to make a smooth transition and live happily is very important to anyone who is involved in a residence hall.
With university founders, administration, and creative building team trying to help make the college experience better, one might wonder how the students are doing. Enoch’s study of the freshmen college adjustment showed a link between extracurricular involvement and an easier adjustment. The relationships that students had with friends and family were also found to be significant in terms of adjustment for both groups. This study shows that by getting students involved within the university in aspects of clubs and organizations or a family network, they are able to find a better fit. With the stress placed on a student, it is important that they are able to make a smooth transition which also allows them to feel as though they belong on campus. Overall, “males were found to have a statically higher level of overall adjustment when compared to the females” (Enochs 4). We still see that both genders are able to have a smooth transition if they try. Whatever the student puts into the experience is what he or she will get out of it.
When it comes to the specifics of how students embrace the transition, several factors that can an impact on their opinion. “66% freshmen residence hall students’ involvement in their living community is influenced significantly by precollege student characteristics (gender, ethnicity), classification, attitudes (toward hall director, academic comfort, social environment, group study), and environmental variables (noise, time spent in the house, residence assistant interaction, peer academic conversations, employment)” (Arboleda 517). The influence of a variety of different characteristics obviously impacts students. As can be seen from the study, everything in the residence hall makes a difference in how a student feels. Students are certainly being held accountable for their actions on campuses. This sense of belonging thrives off of past experiences and environmental issues. The formation of different networks allows an easier and better transition for students.
Forming connections with a variety of different people is very important to the social networking system on a college campus. “The networks of freshmen who lived in university dormitories contained a much higher percentage of new acquaintances than did the networks of the freshmen who lived at home” (Hays 304). Not only are students getting the sense of belonging by living on campus, but they are also starting to fit themselves into different groups that can benefit them both in the present and the future. Living on campus helps to connect everyone and to make it a small world after all. Hays study also found that, “the dorm residents' networks consisted of 84% students and the commuters' networks consisted of 48% students (307). This is believable because students who live on campus have more face time with other students. By facilitating residence halls, the collaboration of studies and fun have an experience that helps students with the sense of belonging needed to deal with all of the stresses of life.
As the world evolves, students are continually faced with issues that past generations have never face. These conflicts and stresses are now resulting in direct effects on students’ college experiences. In a study which dealt with campus interaction, a score of 3.84 out of 5 for academic comfort and 3.64 out of 5 for social environment comfort resulted (Arboleda 523). Students are not feeling completely comfortable in the environment in which they will live for four years of their life. This shows that students academically and socially are going through changes that were not foreseen. Students are now accountable for their actions, an idea which is causing a reform from the past. Today we are seeing changes in the way that students live within residence halls and how this environment influences their life.
While the future of the residence hall is unknown, it is trusted that the students, faculty, and everyone else involved will make sure that the progress is for the students’ best interest. Dawn Johnson says it best for students’ sense of belonging: “The residence hall appears to provide a compelling environment for shaping students’ sense of belonging, perhaps through the intimacy and intensity of relationships formed and experiences gained in the residence hall during the first year” (Johnson 8). Through the year, students learn how to get the sense of belonging that helps them to deal with the accountability of being involved and networked. Students should understand the importance of getting involved on campus, and should realize that they do belong where they are. By being involved, the process of living a different lifestyle will end in great success.
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