For college students, the holiday season is a time of contrasts as celebrations take place just before students fill the libraries preparing for finals.

In SMU’s Residential Commons, home to more than 2,000 first-year and sophomore students, faculty, staff and student leaders help create a community that encourages students to embrace the holiday season and successfully prepare for finals.

With the help of student leadership, each Commons celebrates the holidays as a community, with activities and events ranging from door-decorating contests, to attending a performance in Dallas’ Arts District, to collecting toys for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.  Faculty members who live in the Commons open their kitchens for holiday baking and dress their pets in holiday wear for photos. Ugly sweater contests, international feasts, holiday movie marathons, cookie decorating and ornament-making are part of the celebrations, along with some unique events. Students in one Commons are decorating gingerbread houses, with a socioeconomic twist. Others are using SMU’s Deason Innovation Design Gym to laser cut special decorations.

The holiday spirit extends to one of the most stressful times of university life – finals. Beginning with the first day of finals, Dec. 8, Commons leaders enforce 24-hour quiet hours and provide snacks for study breaks. Pancake-suppers, pet therapy with residence kittens and dogs, hot chocolate send-offs to exams and even massages are planned to help reduce finals stress.

SMU introduced the Residential Commons model in August 2014 to 11 residence halls, integrating the academic, residential and social aspects of university life. Live-in faculty and staff members, resident assistants and other student leaders work together to create communities of support.

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– Nancy George

Decorating for the holidays at Boaz Commons

Decorating for the holidays at Boaz Commons