Project launches campus-wide initiative to enhance student living and learning

SMU dedicated its new Residential Commons complex May 9, enabling all first- and second-year students to live on campus and launching the Residential Commons model campus-wide.

The $146 million complex is the largest capital project in SMU’s history, part of a larger initiative to enhance students’ living-learning experience, starting in fall 2014.

(Front row L-R) SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves, SMU President R. Gerald Turner, Katherine Raymond Crow ‘94, Liz Martin Armstrong ‘82, Anita Ray Arnold, Sylvie P. Crum, Penny R. Loyd, SMU Board Chair Caren H. Prothro, SMU Vice President for Student Affairs Lori White and SMU Provost Paul Ludden. (Back row L-R) Richard Ware ‘68, Harlan R. Crow, Bill Armstrong ’82, Truman Arnold, Gary T. Crum ’69, Paul B. Loyd, Jr. ’68, and SMU Student Body President Ramón Trespalacios.

(Front row L-R) SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves, SMU President R. Gerald Turner, Katherine Raymond Crow ‘94, Liz Martin Armstrong ‘82, Anita Ray Arnold, Sylvie P. Crum, Penny R. Loyd, SMU Board Chair Caren H. Prothro, SMU Vice President for Student Affairs Lori White and SMU Provost Paul Ludden. (Back row L-R) Richard Ware ‘68, Harlan R. Crow, Bill Armstrong ’82, Truman Arnold, Gary T. Crum ’69, Paul B. Loyd, Jr. ’68, and SMU Student Body President Ramón Trespalacios.

New facilities for the nine-acre Commons complex include five residence halls – Armstrong Commons, Kathy Crow Commons, Crum Commons, Loyd Commons and Ware Commons – as well as the Anita and Truman Arnold Dining Commons and the 800-space Mustang Parking Center. The complex will provide campus housing for 1,250 SMU students, enabling a total of 2,750 students to live on campus.

“Today’s dedication of the Residential Commons complex signifies an exciting new chapter in SMU history,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Each Commons is designed to combine seamlessly  the intellectual and social aspects of University life, a concept that will be implemented campus-wide in the fall. We are grateful to six generous families for transforming the SMU campus experience.”

Media representatives joined SMU Trustees, alumni, family, friends and members of the campus community at the dedication of the new Residential Commons complex May 9.

Media representatives joined SMU Trustees, alumni, family, friends and members of the campus community at the dedication of the new Residential Commons complex May 9.

Lead gifts of $30 million in total giving have been provided by Liz Martin Armstrong ’82 and Bill Armstrong ’82, Anita Ray Arnold and Truman Arnold, Katherine Raymond Crow ’94 and Harlan R. Crow, Sylvie P. Crum and Gary T. Crum ’69, Penny R. Loyd and Paul B. Loyd, Jr. ’68, and Richard Ware ’68 and family.

Each five-story Commons in the new complex will be home to 250 students, a residence life director and a faculty member in residence. The faculty member will serve as mentor and intellectual leader of the community, and has the opportunity to teach a class or host study sessions in the classroom located in each Commons.

The new Residential Commons complex – five new Residential Commons, a Dining Commons and Mustang Parking Center (all pictured above) – are part of SMU’s new Residential Commons model of campus living, consisting of 11 Residential Commons created from new and existing buildings.

The new Residential Commons complex – five new Residential Commons, a Dining Commons and Mustang Parking Center (all pictured above) – are part of SMU’s new Residential Commons model of campus living, consisting of 11 Residential Commons created from new and existing buildings.

Differences in floor plans, colors and views have been deliberately incorporated into the new complex, and students will find a variety of nooks and gathering places in each Commons. Each floor has a study room, lounge and smaller gathering areas, ranging from a large window seat at the end of each hallway to banquette-style booths for group study or gatherings. In addition, each Commons will include an entry-level living room, a kitchenette, a game room and a laundry room.

The two-story Anita and Truman Arnold Dining Commons, open to all members of the SMU community, will seat 500 students in indoor and outdoor settings. Multiple types of seating areas include booths, counter seating, high-top tables and seating in a naturally lit rotunda, where all residents of each Commons will meet for monthly dinners.

Most meals will be made to order and served from seven stations, including a wood-burning pizza oven, home-cooking station, fresh produce station and international menu station. Quiet areas for study are included, as well as projection televisions to enable students to gather at the Arnold Dining Commons to watch sporting events, concerts and political events.

A luncheon honoring donors to the Residential Commons complex project was held as part of the dedication festivities.

A luncheon honoring donors to the Residential Commons complex project was held as part of the dedication festivities.

The new construction is key to implementing the Residential Commons model of campus living at SMU, creating 11 Residential Commons campus-wide through the new complex and six existing residence halls that have been renovated in the Commons model. These include Boaz Commons, Cockrell-McIntosh Commons, Mary Hay-Peyton-Shuttles Commons, McElvaney Commons, Morrison-McGinnis Commons and Virginia-Snider Commons. Residents of each Commons will comprise first- and second-year students representing all academic majors and varied backgrounds. Each Commons will develop traditions and host activities, creating a sense of community among residents and an affiliation that begins during the student years but continues into their lives as alumni, said Lori White, SMU vice president for student affairs.

“The Residential Commons model supports a strong residential community, one enabling students to make friends more easily, transition more smoothly to campus life, enhance personal exploration and growth and benefit from new leadership opportunities,” she said. “The model also promotes a sense of identity and belonging.”

Students, faculty and staff have been essential in planning for the new model since it was first proposed in the 1990s, from testing furniture, to visiting other schools with similar programs, to selecting Faculty in Residence, to designing individual crests for each commons.

Following the Residential Commons complex dedication ceremony, guests toured the new two-story Anita and Truman Arnold Dining Commons, which seats 500 and will serve most meals made to order from seven stations. Umphrey Lee Dining Commons is undergoing renovation to be brought in line with the new model of campus dining.

Following the Residential Commons complex dedication ceremony, guests toured the new two-story Anita and Truman Arnold Dining Commons, which seats 500 and will serve most meals made to order from seven stations. Umphrey Lee Dining Commons is undergoing renovation to be brought in line with the new model of campus dining.

Living in campus housing, particularly in a living-learning community, has a significant positive effect on students’ learning outcomes, according to a report from the National Symposium on Postsecondary Student Success.

“Research shows that living-learning university communities increase student retention and create an extension of the learning continuum,” said Paul Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Faculty in Residence will expand students’ opportunities for informal interactions and mentoring.”

The Anita and Truman Arnold Dining Commons will open for summer conferences and camps May 27, and the Armstrong, Kathy Crow, Crum, Loyd and Ware Commons will open August 22, 2014, along with all campus Residential Commons.

“The dedication of the Residential Commons complex represents an important milestone for SMU as we celebrate the centennial of the University’s founding and opening,” said Brad E. Cheves, SMU vice president for development and external affairs. “The generosity of the Armstrong, Arnold, Crow, Crum, Loyd and Ware families has played an important part in making this possible.”

Guests touring the new Residential Commons complex May 9 took in the facilities’ architecture, new walkways and landscaping. Also open for viewing were a faculty residence in Armstrong Commons; a Commons director’s residence in Crum Commons; a living room in Ware Commons; a classroom and mediation room in Kathy Crow Commons; single and double occupancy rooms in Loyd Commons; and the Anita and Truman Arnold Dining Commons.