$5 million Armstrong gift will help build new Residential Commons

sophomore housing

$5 million Armstrong gift will help build new Residential Commons

Elisabeth Martin Armstrong and William D. Armstrong, SMU Class of 1982Two alumni who lived on campus as SMU students are now making it possible for greater numbers of future students to enjoy the residential experience with new enhancements.

Alumni Elisabeth Martin Armstrong and William D. Armstrong (right), of Denver, have committed a $5 million gift toward the construction of SMU’s new Residential Commons complex, a grouping of five residential facilities and a dining hall, designed to expand learning outside the classroom.

> An overview of the Residential Commons concept from SMU Magazine

The Residential Commons model represents a new direction in SMU student housing. The five Residential Commons in this project will enable SMU to implement its new requirement that sophomores live on campus, in addition to first-year students. Campus living beyond the first year has been linked to higher retention rates and creates a greater sense of camaraderie among students. Each Residential Commons will include faculty in residence, expanding opportunities for learning, informal interactions and mentoring, says Paul Ludden, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Construction of the Residential Commons (rendering at bottom right) will begin in early 2012. The complex will be located north of Mockingbird Lane near the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports and Gerald J. Ford Stadium on the main campus. Expected to open in fall 2014, it will provide housing for 1,250 students, along with a dining facility for residents of the complex. Each Commons building also will include classrooms, seminar space and faculty accommodations. Currently existing residence halls will also be renovated to achieve the Residential Commons model by 2014.

In addition to private gifts, revenue from room and board will help to fund each Residential Commons.

> SMU Forum: Board of Trustees approves construction of new residence halls

“The Armstrong family’s gift to SMU will help ensure that future students will benefit from a close-knit, living and learning community that will enhance their SMU experience,” says SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are grateful to the Armstrongs for funding the first Residential Commons, and we are pleased to name it in their honor.”

Supporting SMU is a family tradition for the Armstrongs, 1982 graduates who are among three generations of family members who have attended or are attending SMU. Bill and Liz Armstrong met as geology students in Dedman College during their first year at SMU. They serve as co-chairs of the University’s Second Century Campaign Steering Committee for Denver, served from 2008 through 2011 as chairs of the Parent Leadership Council and were members of the committee for their 25-year class reunion. They hosted a Denver campaign kick-off and several summer send-off parties for Denver-area students attending SMU.

Rendering of SMU's new Residential Commons complex, scheduled for completion in 2014In addition, they contributed support for construction of the Armstrong Casita student residence at SMU’s Taos campus, where as students they attended geology field camp. They are consistent givers to the University’s Annual Fund, and they contributed toward the rebuilding of the new Pi Beta Phi house, where Liz and her daughter, Leigh, were both active members.

> Liz Armstrong discusses her family’s special connection with the Taos campus

At most SMU home football games, they tailgate on The Boulevard with their extended family. Daughter Leigh, the 11th member of their family to attend SMU, graduated May 14 from Meadows School of the Arts, and in 2010 daughter Lindsey earned a Master’s degree in education from the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

The Armstrongs’ gift counts toward SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which has raised $538 million to date toward its goal of $750 million to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience.

> Read more from SMU News

May 17, 2011|News|

Board of Trustees approves new Residential Commons plan

Students on Main QuadThe SMU Board of Trustees on Sept. 10 approved changes to the campus master plan to include the construction of new residence halls to accommodate a sophomore residency requirement at SMU. First-year students are already required to live on campus.

Five new halls will contain 1,250 beds and will be constructed on the main campus north of Mockingbird Lane near the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports. The halls will be configured as Residential Commons, including not only housing but also space for classrooms, dining, social and cultural activities, and live-in faculty and staff. Additional parking also would be provided.

Students would continue their relationship with the Commons throughout their SMU years through activities sponsored by the Commons, giving them an ongoing campus connection even if they live off-campus in their final years. The plan is to adapt most existing halls as Residential Commons. Under guidelines to be developed, students living in Greek houses their second year would meet the residency requirement. Each Commons would include a combination of first-year and sophomore students; upper-class students would be accommodated as space allows.

“Providing more students with the opportunity to live on a campus that is architecturally beautiful, student-friendly and filled with academic, cultural and recreational resources supports SMU’s goal to provide our students with the best possible campus experience,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

The Residential Commons model “enriches the living and learning environment by emphasizing academic and social balance,” said SMU Provost Paul Ludden. “This intellectual and social community will be appealing to the high-achieving students we seek in greater numbers. The presence of faculty in Residential Commons will create greater opportunities for sharing ideas, informal interactions and mentoring.”

“There is definitely a correlation between multi-year student housing and academic success,” Turner added. Sophomore housing on campuses been linked to higher retention rates and a greater sense of camaraderie among students. The sophomore residency requirement has been recommended by several recent SMU advisory groups, among them the Honors Task Force and the President’s Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention. Campus planners gathered information from several other universities with multi-year housing, including Rice, Vanderbilt, Washington University and the University of Southern California.

“No private university in the U.S. News & World Report Top 50 lacks the capacity to house all second-year students on campus, and no private university in that group has less than a 90 percent retention rate of first-year students, or less than an 80 percent 6-year graduation rate,” said Ludden. SMU’s first-year retention rate is 88 percent, and its 6-year graduation rate is 77 percent.

The cost of the five new halls will be $134.5 million and will be funded from multiple sources, such as bond proceeds, private donations, and rent revenue. Construction is expected to begin in 2012 and be completed in 2014.

> Read more from SMU News

September 14, 2010|News|
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