The Research Team fosters interdisciplinary inquiry through intensive efforts to break down barriers and advance interdisciplinary research related to student success and learning.

The Research Team comprises faculty, staff, and students—both undergraduate and graduate— from all disciplines who produce original empirical research related to residential life and students.

The Research Team’s findings aid in the improvement of university policies, practices, and programs to support residential student success and positively contribute to the field of higher education.

Historical Academic and Student Success in Residential Life

RLSH has designed an exploratory research study to understand variables associated with student retention, graduation, and other student success indicators based on existing housing and institutional data from current and former on-campus residents at SMU. Specifically, the study intends to understand the potential impacts of housing and the Residential Commons model on the included indicators. The study is intended to include a timeframe that encompasses the establishment of the Residential Commons circa fall 2012 to spring 2019. SMU IRB: #H19-069

Impact of a Residential Commons Model on Students, Faculty, and Staff

With the significant human, fiscal, and physical investment of SMU in the Residential Commons model, the opportunity has presented itself to analyze the program’s effectiveness. This multifaceted needs assessment will produce two deliverables from focus-group and survey data. The first deliverable will be an executive summary with a report of the needs assessment. The second deliverable will be a Residential Commons Research and Assessment Agenda. This agenda will outline the semesterly, annual, and long-term research and assessment efforts connected to the Residential Commons. RLSH seeks to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of the Residential Commons in order to understand current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the program in its sixth year. SMU IRB: #H19-078

Developing a Thriving Student Experience

The overall purpose of the study is to understand the thriving of underrepresented college students. For the purposes of this study, underrepresented students include transfer students, international students, and first-generation college students. This study uses a sequential exploratory design consisting of two distinct phases. In this design, quantitative, numeric data will be collected using the Thriving Quotient instrument. These data will aid in purposely sampling participants for the second phase. The second phase of the project will help explain or elaborate on the quantitative results obtained in phase one. Individual interviews will be used to elaborate on the quantitative findings for each of the underrepresented student groups. SMU IRB: #H19-112

Student Engagement in Residential College System

RLSH staff want to understand resident engagement within a residential college model. Utilizing data from an engagement-tracking database, we hope to answer the questions: What does engagement look like across residential communities? What demographics of students are most and least engaged? What is the relationship between student engagement levels and grade-point average? Persistence? SMU IRB: H20-001

RLSH created a funded research grant program with the goal of cultivating knowledge related to residential life and student success on campus. The aim of this program is to encourage SMU scholars and practitioners to conduct high-quality research in support of the research agenda areas.

Financing and Research Team support are available for selected studies that address any of the three research priority areas within residential life at SMU:

Accepted research grant proposals will receive funds of up to $5,000. An application for a funded research grant should (1) include a budget and (2) follow a traditionally structured one-page abstract format—see Mosteller, Nave, and Miech (2004) for an example. Structured abstract components:

  1. Background
  2. Purpose
  3. Setting
  4. Participants
  5. Intervention (if relevant)
  6. Research design
  7. Data collection and analysis

Complete applications for grant funding should be submitted to the director of academic initiatives. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until fiscal-year funds are depleted. The proposal review process can take up to one month.

The Research Team is responsible for approving requests to use RLSH information (e.g., housing applications, demographics, building occupancy, etc.) for the purposes of research. Persons or groups who want to survey or use the on-campus resident lists for research purposes should follow and understand the protocol below.

A written request (email) to the director of academic initiatives. This request should include detailed information about the research study and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) application.

  1. This request is reviewed by the assistant vice president and the dean of residence life and student housing, director of academic initiatives, and/or Research Team.
  2. If the request is approved, the director will submit the proposal to the vice president of student affairs.
  3. The vice president of student affairs or designee will provide final approval.
  4. The applicant will receive an official letter/email informing them of the final decision.

This letter will include any associated costs (if applicable), the reason for denial or conditions of approval, and contact information for those involved in supporting the research. A letter of support for the research study can also be provided at this time.

Please submit the request, information regarding the research study, and IRB approval document to the director of academic initiatives. The Research Team will review the study and the proposed IRB application and will make a decision on providing data for the study. Please allow up to one month for review and approval.