September 13, 2010
The SMU Board of Trustees on September 10 approved changes to the campus master plan to include the construction of new residence halls to accommodate a sophomore residency requirement at SMU. First-year students are already required to live on campus.
Five new halls will contain 1,250 beds and will be constructed on the main campus north of Mockingbird Lane near the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports. The halls will be configured as Residential Commons, including not only housing but also space for classrooms, dining, social and cultural activities, and live-in faculty and staff. Additional parking also would be provided.
Students would continue their relationship with the Commons throughout their SMU years through activities sponsored by the Commons, giving them an ongoing campus connection even if they live off-campus in their final years. The plan is to adapt most existing halls as Residential Commons. Under guidelines to be developed, students living in Greek houses their second year would meet the residency requirement. Each Commons would include a combination of first-year and sophomore students; upper-class students would be accommodated as space allows,
“Providing more students with the opportunity to live on a campus that is architecturally beautiful, student-friendly and filled with academic, cultural and recreational resources supports SMU’s goal to provide our students with the best possible campus experience,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.
The Residential Commons model “enriches the living and learning environment by emphasizing academic and social balance,” said SMU Provost Paul Ludden. “This intellectual and social community will be appealing to the high-achieving students we seek in greater numbers. The presence of faculty in Residential Commons will create greater opportunities for sharing ideas, informal interactions and mentoring.”
“There is definitely a correlation between multi-year student housing and academic success,” Turner added. Sophomore housing on campuses been linked to higher retention rates and a greater sense of camaraderie among students. The sophomore residency requirement has been recommended by several recent SMU advisory groups, among them the Honor’s Task Force and the President’s Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention. Campus planners gathered information from several other universities with multi-year housing, including Rice, Vanderbilt, Washington University and the University of Southern California.
“No private university in the U.S. News & World Report Top 50 lacks
the capacity to house all second-year students on campus, and no private university in that group has less than a 90% retention rate of first-year students, or less than an 80% six-year graduation rate,” said Ludden. SMU’s first-year retention rate is 88 percent, and its six-year graduation rate is 77 percent.
“The residential commons becomes a tight-knit community within a campus community,” says Vice President for Student Affairs Lori White. “In addition, having more students live on campus enlivens the environment and encourages loyalty to the institution that continues long after graduation.”
The cost of the five new halls will be $134.5 million and will be funded from multiple sources, such as bond proceeds, private donations, and rent revenue. Construction is expected to begin in 2012 and be completed in 2014.
SMU is two years into the public phase of its Second Century Campaign, which to date has raised $452 million in gifts and pledges toward a goal of $750 million for scholarships, faculty positions, academic programs and the campus experience.
“As SMU celebrates the centennial of its founding in 2011 and of its opening in 2015, the time is right to take dramatic steps to accelerate our progress,” Turner said
Other master plan changes relate to the former Mrs. Baird’s site and other property south of Mockingbird Lane. Under the changes, the site will include tennis facilities, a data center, and electrical substation.
SMU is a private institution enrolling nearly 11,000 students in Dallas, Texas, and granting degrees through seven schools.
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