Meadows Students Find Community Through SMU Residential Commons Life

The experience of living in the dorms during their first and second year helps students build strong community connections and forge distinct experiences on campus.

Sidewalk chalk art celebrating life at Armstrong Commons.
Armstrong Commons students show their community spirit through sidewalk chalk art on campus.

One of the most distinctive features of campus life at SMU is the Residential Commons. Every first- and second-year student belongs to one of 11 Residential Commons, which are designed to integrate the academic, residential, and social experience and create a sense of belonging. Whether they are housed in Armstrong, Boaz, Cockrell-McIntosh, Crum, Kathy Crow, Loyd, Mary Hay Peyton Shuttles, McElvaney, Morrison-McGinnis, Virginia-Snider, or Ware, students build strong community connections within their Commons.


Each of the 11 Commons systems house students from around the country (and even the world!) from all different majors and diverse identities, giving incoming Meadows students the opportunity to form bonds with not only fellow arts program classmates, but also those outside their intended area of study. These inclusive communities foster a dynamic living and learning environment.


“The Commons at SMU are envisioned as residential learning communities,” says Dr. Alberto Pastor, the Faculty-in-Residence for the Mary Hay Peyton Shuttles (MHPS) Commons. “Residential Community Directors, Resident Assistants and Faculty-in-Residence all provide time and space for students to engage in the community by means of events of both social and academic nature.”


For Pastor, this means a weekly event hosted in his apartment or on the MHPS Quad where residents have an opportunity to socialize and try food from all over the world. Each Commons has a core value, and since MHPS’s core value is diversity, Pastor finds ways to build community by supporting student organizations of diverse backgrounds on campus. He often partners this with his weekly event and brings each organization’s culture, traditions and languages to the MHPS Commons. These opportunities help further unify the students living in MHPS, but each Commons has their own way of community-building.


Armstrong Commons students participate in bonding activities. 


“There are a variety of ways that SMU helps build community in the dorms, like the free events hosted by each Commons which ensure its students have something to do and identify with,” explains first-year student and Public Relations & Strategic Communication major Megan Watson, who is a member of the Loyd Commons. “Every dorm has their own event. For instance, Loyd recently had their annual Lama Rama where students can win prizes, get t-shirts and eat food while having fun with people all over campus.”


In addition to the unique events and activities hosted by each Commons system, which also include Crum’s “The Great Crumpkin” event in October and Kathy Crow’s “Let It Crow” event to introduce the winter semester, residents are also brought together for a healthy dose of competition each year. The 11 Commons compete in the Commons Cup, hosted by the Housing Unification Board. This friendly contest allows Commons to earn points through trivia nights, recreational sports, volunteering, and a variety of other activities on campus, and whichever dorm receives the most points throughout the year is crowned the winner. And while there are clearly many fun ways for students to get involved, some bonding occurs just through living their daily lives in close proximity.


“Dorm life in general really builds community, especially when the students live together and have to navigate all the things together, from broken elevators to shared bathrooms,” explains Willie Baronet, Meadows advertising professor and Faculty-in-Residence for Armstrong Commons. “The two years spent living in the dorms allows them to deepen relationships with fellow students and their Commons.”


Armstrong Commons students celebrate with cake and their Faculty-in-Residence, Willie Baronet. 


SMU also believes the Commons experience is truly defined by its students. The Commons Council, which acts as each Commons’ primary leadership body, allows residents to shape their own experience while refining their leadership skills. The Council for each dorm is made up of about six students who host events and meetings to ensure all residents remain included and informed of happenings around the Commons and the SMU campus at large.


Due to the close-knit ties that are created, students often remain affiliated with their Residential Commons throughout their time at SMU. Because of the unique nature of the housing system, students often have a lifelong affiliation with and pride for the Commons they were part of, which provides a solid foundation for the rest of their SMU career and beyond.