Life in the Residential Commons

Residential Commons Model

History of Residential Colleges

Residential Colleges (Commons) have been around for hundreds of years. The original Residential College system started from University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. At both Oxford and Cambridge, each residential college bares a lot of autonomy in governance, fundraising, hiring of faculty/staff, and admitting of students. Many students at these institutions consider themselves a member of their college primary to their secondary membership at the overarching Cambridge or Oxford.

Early in the 20th century, Harvard University and then Yale, Princeton, and other Ivy League institutions in the United States began creating a “house” or residential college system to mimic the academic, residential communities that created strong affiliation and identity that it’s sister schools across the Atlantic Ocean were founded upon. A wave of institutions across the country began creating their own version of residential colleges. Even larger institutions such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California-Berkeley, University of Michigan, and Michigan State University created one or two residential colleges that helped create faculty/student relationships in universities that were consistently enrolling thousands of more students.

In the present day there are a select few prestigious institutions that have invested in the residential experience of undergraduates by creating a residential college system along with SMU. Universities like Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt University have modernized their residence halls by creating residential colleges.

Residential Commons at SMU

The Residential Commons (RC) will transform student housing campus-wide with an integrated academic and residential experience. The Commons will bring live-in faculty and staff members, resident assistants and other student leaders together to create communities of support. Faculty members associated with each commons will have the opportunity to interact informally and mentor students.

Each commons will develop unique traditions, gatherings and meaningful activities that build community and long-term bonds among residents. Each student will have a close-knit, living and learning environment where a rich intellectual, social, and community life can flourish.

Some unique qualities that differentiate the RC experience for students will be:

  • Affiliation with a particular Residential Commons even if/when you do not live there as upperclass students or alumni
  • RCs will have individual identity symbols and traditions
  • Integrating Commuter and Transfer students with most RCs
  • In order for each RC to be a microcosm of SMU, all entering students are equally distributed across the 11 RCs
  • Each RC will have access to classrooms in or near them
  • There will be new programmatic events that will be created to create community and competition amongst the RCs such as the RC Banquets and the RC Olympics
  • Faculty engagement is the cornerstone of the RC. Each RC will have a faculty member living in each residential commons and several faculty affiliates.
  • Student leadership will play an important role in the RCs. Students will have leadership opportunities through community councils and other peer leader positions

Supporting Research

"It is incredibly important that SMU students experience a young, powerful and positive family of color. For many students, creating positive relationships with an African-American man, a Mexican woman and two biracial children can be transformative."

Will Power, Artist-in-Residence, Theatre in Meadows School of the Arts