On Friday, May 9, 2014, SMU dedicated its new Residential Commons complex, enabling all first-year and sophomore students to live on campus and launching the Residential Commons (RC) model campus-wide. The RC model will be implemented campuswide during the Fall 2014 term.
The $146 million complex is the largest capital project in SMU’s history and part of a larger initiative to enhance students’ living and learning experience. 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 an additional 1,250 SMU students, enabling nearly 2,750 students to live on campus.
The 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 seamlessly combine the intellectual and social aspects of University life, a concept that will be implemented campuswide in the fall. We are grateful to six generous families for transforming the SMU campus experience.”
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 included in each Commons.
“This gift from Harlan and Kathy Crow will support a campus home and gathering place for generations of students,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Students who live in Kathy Crow Commons will be part of an academic and residential community that will become a key part of their SMU experience. We are grateful for the Crows for this generous gift.”
SMU’s new Residential Commons model of campus living, which includes 11 Commons created from new and existing residential buildings, will provide an integrated academic and residential student experience. Live-in faculty members will have offices and teach classes in on-site classrooms. In addition, each Commons will develop traditions and host gatherings and activities to create a sense of community among the residents.
“We have studied numerous institutions with strong residential communities,” said Lori White, vice president for student affairs. “We know the Residential Commons model will strengthen the SMU experience by enhancing student involvement opportunities and creating common bonds and friendships among diverse groups of students.”
Since 1988, Harlan Crow has served as chairman and CEO of Crow Family Holdings, which manages the capital of the Trammell Crow family. The Trammell Crow Company, founded in Dallas in 1948 by Crow’s father, is one of the nation’s oldest and largest commercial real estate developers and investors. Mr. Crow has worked with Crow-affiliated entities for nearly 40 years. He serves on the board of directors of the American Enterprise Institute, the Southwestern Medical Foundation, the Supreme Court Historical Society, the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation and the Antiquarian Society. In addition Mr. Crow is the honorary consul of Denmark for the Southwestern region.
Dallas civic leader Kathy Crow earned her M.B.A. from Cox School of Business. In addition to her current position on the SMU Board of Trustees, she has served on the boards of SMU’s Tate Lecture Series and the Women’s Economics and Financial Series at Cox School of Business.
The $5 million gift for the Kathy Crow Commons counts toward the $1 billion goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which to date has raised $844 million to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience. The campaign coincides with SMU’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the University’s founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915.
Now under construction, this facility joins five residence halls and a parking garage, all of which will accommodate 1,250 students and several faculty as members of a shared campus community.
“We are deeply grateful to the Arnolds for their generous support,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “This dining facility will be the centerpiece of our new Residential Commons complex and will be an important element of the campus experience for countless present and future students.”
The Arnolds’ gift counts toward the $750 million goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which to date has raised more than $732 million to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience.
The new Residential Commons complex is expected to open in Fall 2014 in the southeast quadrant of the campus adjacent to Ford Stadium and Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports. The addition of these residential facilities will enable SMU to implement a new requirement that sophomores, as well as first-year students, live on campus.
“By including facilities for live-in faculty members, who also will have offices and teach classes in the Residential Commons, this complex will provide students with an integrated academic and living experience,” said Paul Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs.
“This model supports a strong residential community with a balance between academic and social aspects of campus life,” said Lori S. White, vice president for student affairs. “Each commons will develop activities and traditions that build a sense of community and encourage lasting ties among the student residents.”
All students and faculty living in the five residential units of the complex will share meals in the Anita and Truman Arnold Dining Commons, which also will be open to other students. The 29,658-square-foot dining commons will have a seating capacity of 500.
All three of the first Faculty in Residence – informally dubbed “the Founding FiRs” by Residence Life and Student Housing staff members – have had formative roles in the early stages of the program, says Jeff Grim, assistant director of residence life.
Fontenot has spent three non-continuous years since 2009-10 living in a student residence hall as part of SMU’s Engineering Learning Community. Much of Tunks’ service as associate provost from 1998-2006 and from 2007-2011 focused on how to integrate students’ academic and social lives more closely, from which the Residential Commons program took root. (He returned to full-time teaching as a professor of music in Meadows School of the Arts in 2012.) Krout helped design the Faculty in Residence position and has served on several subcommittees for the new program; he will move into the renovated Mary Hay Hall this summer.
“It is an incredibly exciting time to be at SMU as the new Residential Commons begin to take shape both physically and philosophically,” says Krout, professor of music therapy in Meadows School of the Arts. “SMU is a very special place for students, staff and faculty, and I feel that the University’s vision, mission, and goals will all come together in a unique and synergistic way through this initiative.”
Each commons will represent in a microcosm the diversity of the entire SMU community, Krout says. “It will be a positive challenge for each FiR to work with students and staff in their Residential Commons to embrace diversity of all kinds. These will be truly integrated academic and residential communities – environments that can become dynamic forces in student academic achievement, personal development, engagement and social life.”
Fontenot, Krout and Tunks will focus on identifying opportunities for students and faculty to interact outside the classroom. The FiRs’ goal will be to “emphasize a culture of mentorship, intellectual discourse, and community that is cultivated in all aspects of the collegiate experience inside and outside of the classroom,” according to the Residential Commons website.
“Supporting students through the formative college years is very important to me,” says Fontenot, senior lecturer in the Computer Science and Engineering Department, Lyle School of Engineering. “The barriers that exist between faculty and students are too high, and any activity that can break them down gets my attention. In my opinion, being a Faculty in Residence is one of the most important and significant ways to break down these walls.”
During his years as a self-described “guinea pig” for the Faculty in Residence concept, Fontenot has had the opportunity “to more fully understand the life of an SMU undergraduate, the multitude of directions in which they are pulled, and the amazing amount of drive, passion and dedication they bring to this campus,” he says.
“Good teaching is as much about knowing who you are teaching as it is about what you are teaching,” Fontenot adds. “An awareness of life outside the classroom has made me a better teacher inside the classroom. My hope is that by continuing to participate as a Faculty in Residence, I can help more students recognize the benefit of reaching out to their professors on a regular basis.”
A committee of faculty, staff and students met for more than a year to benchmark residential college programs at institutions such as Washington University in St. Louis, Vanderbilt, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice, Baylor and the University of Chicago, Grim says. The Faculty in Residence position description was one result of that work.
Each of the 11 Residential Commons will have one Faculty in Residence. As the program expands, other faculty members will serve as Faculty Affiliates. In these positions, professors will have opportunities to dine with students and be part of Residential Commons life while living off campus.
The new residential quad currently under construction in the southeast campus provides important support for the program, but the Residential Commons concept “is actually a transformation of our entire residence life experience,” Grim says. During the summers of 2013 and 2014, the University will renovate existing halls to create faculty apartments and expanded RLSH staff apartments. In addition, “every hall will have classroom space either in or around it,” Grim says. The Residential Commons program will be ready to launch in August 2014.
“Students can go to many other schools where they can interact with faculty informally and integrate their academic and social lives together,” Grim says. By providing such an experience, SMU “will be able to recruit and retain students who are interested in developing a life of the mind in their residence halls.”
The program will also help the University “create a kind of blended idea of what it means to learn in college, inside and outside the classroom, and integrate these two ideas into a more seamless learning environment,” Grim says. “I think the Residential Commons as a whole will help establish more of a connection to the campus early in our students’ time with us, and the faculty will help create that.”
There are benefits for the participating faculty as well, Grim notes. “They’ll get to mentor and connect with students both within and outside their discipline. Some of the faculty we work with don’t get to interact with a broad range of undergraduates because they teach only upper-level courses. Through the Residential Commons, they’ll get to work with students who have many different experiences, interests and backgrounds.”
Each hall’s live-in residential community director (RCD) will continue to hold responsibilities such as selecting staff, supervising emergency response and creating programming. As part of the Residential Commons, “they’ll also be working hand in hand with a faculty member to create an academically focused social community,” Grim says. “The RCDs and the faculty will be partners in creating a seamless learning environment.” Upper-class student resident assistants will also work closely with faculty in this effort, he adds.
Grim expects the eight remaining FiRs to be named by the end of the Spring 2013 term. Faculty members have applied from six of SMU’s seven schools, he adds.
“Most of the FiRs will not be in place until Fall 2014, but we’ll spend this next year developing programs and building relationships so that come 2014, it’s a seamless and easy transition,” Grim says. The Faculty Affiliate pilot program is scheduled to be in place in time for the 2013-14 academic year.
In addition, a group of first- and second-year students called the Residential Commons Student Leadership Corps “will help lead us into the future and discover what we want the Residential Commons to be going forward,” Grim says.