Residential Commons in Oxford

Eight SMU undergraduates and four faculty and staff members are exploring the birthplace of residential colleges: Oxford, England. With stops in London, Cambridge, and Bath, this group of residential leaders are searching to answer the question, “What is the culture of a true residential college system?” The students, faculty and staff hope to bring back ideas and traditions to enhance SMU’s new Residential Commons system.

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Our arrival in London

An update from Dr. Robert Krout, Faculty-in-Residence Mary Hay/Peyton/Shuttles Residential Commons and Professor of Music Therapy, and Dr. Vicki L. Hill, Assistant Dean for the University Curriculum:

The twelve of us — eight students, a FIR (faculty-in-residence), two RLSH staff and an assistant dean — are still a bit jet-lagged, having just arrived in London.

We’re on our way to the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s second oldest surviving university (after the University of Bologna).

Oxford’s nearly nine-hundred-year history of undergraduate living and learning in residential colleges helped to inspire SMU’s new Residential Commons, which was introduced this past academic year and will be fully implemented when students return to the Hilltop in August.

From our base at Oxford’s University College (founded in 1249!), we’ll visit six of Oxford’s thirty-eight residential colleges, as well as London’s Imperial College and Cambridge’s King’s College.

Everywhere we go, we’ll be learning as much as we can about how each one of these different residential colleges creates community and culture. We’ll explore topics such as student leadership and governance, programming, the roles of non-students, and even physical space. Mostly we’ll be keeping our eyes and ears open, asking lots of questions, taking lots of pictures, reflecting on what we’re learning, thinking about how we can apply what we’ve experienced at Oxford to what we’re creating at SMU, and sharing our experiences in daily blogs that we’ll be sending home to our SMU community.

It is often enlightening to experience higher education in other cultures, as it is easy to consider the college experience through our own country’s lens only. Being immersed in the university settings of other cultures allows us to reflect on how aspects of these might enhance what we do at SMU to make the RC experience. What a treat it will be to immerse ourselves in the Oxford and Cambridge settings and bring back elements of the student residential experiences that have made these universities so special over the (many) years of their history and development. Keep tuned into our blogs to follow our adventures as our group of Mustangs explores, learns, and reflects!

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We’ve arrived!

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