Southern Methodist University prepares for new student housing

Feature about SMU's new Residential Commons.

Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK — As empty nesters, professors Jeanne and Thomas Tunks decided it would be a fun adventure to live near college students.

Thomas Tunks, a music professor at Southern Methodist University, and his wife, an education professor at the University of North Texas, will become dorm residents next year at SMU.

“We have two sons, and they’ve both grown up and moved out,” Thomas Tunks said. “We are just the two of us in this house rattling around.”

Starting in fall 2014, SMU undergraduates will be assigned to one of 11 Residential Commons, which are living-learning communities of 200 to 300 students — a sort of college within a college. Each will have living quarters for students, staff and a live-in professor, plus space for supporting faculty members.

SMU officials say the new setup will create a more academic culture on campus and strengthen relationships between faculty and students.

“I joke that I want to be 18 again so I can live in some of these buildings with these amazing people,” said Jennifer Post, associate director of residence life.

Five dorms and a cafeteria are under construction in the southeast corner of the campus. Six dorms are being remodeled. All will open in fall 2014 to coincide with a new requirement that undergraduate students live on campus for two years.

SMU’s new student housing is modeled after the residential college system at the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge in England. Harvard, Rice and Vanderbilt universities have similar arrangements.

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