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.
SMU has made a property trade with one of its sorority chapters to take effect Monday, April 1, 2013. The Iota Alpha chapter of Chi Omega at SMU will build its new house at 3034 Daniel Avenue, while the current Chi Omega house at 3014 Daniel Avenue will become the property of the Division of Student Affairs.
Chi Omega will begin construction on a new house this year, and its membership wanted to locate the facility closer to the hub of SMU’s sorority activity. In 2012, sorority members began discussions about the exchange with SMU vice presidents Brad Cheves, Development and External Affairs; Chris Regis, Business and Finance, and Lori White, Student Affairs. Cheves helped negotiate the swap.
Later this spring, the sorority will begin abatement and demolition of the SMU Faculty Club building currently located at 3034 Daniel, on the northeast corner of Daniel Avenue and Durham Street. The new Chi Omega house is scheduled to open at its new address in Fall 2014.
The University plans to relocate the Faculty Club to a new visitors’ center, currently in the planning stages. Plans for the facility at 3014 Daniel will be announced at a later date.
The move may have a minimal short-term impact on Faculty Club events such as the Distinguished Luncheons, which are frequently held in larger venues due to high levels of interest. In addition, Faculty Club members will continue to gather in the Faculty/Staff Dining Room in RFoC @ Lee.
In recent years, the Faculty Club has provided office space for Alumni Relations and Engagement and the Faculty Senate. Both offices have moved to the University’s East Campus on North Central Expressway – Alumni Relations to the 6200 Building and the Faculty Senate to the 12th floor of Expressway Tower at 6116 North Central.
The month of March has been devoted to removing and storing all Faculty Club property from the 3034 Daniel house, as well as reusable fixtures ranging from faucets to door handles, says Alison Tweedy, senior director of campus services. “Facility Services will take out anything that can be reused or repurposed,” she says.
The SMU Faculty Club, which is open to both faculty and staff members, was founded in 1921 as a social club for male faculty members. A women’s club was founded in 1928, and the two merged in 1963. Both clubs held their meetings in Atkins Hall (now Clements Hall) until the male club moved to the second floor of McFarlin Auditorium in the 1940s.
As Faculty Senate president in 1972-73, Ruth P. Morgan, who would later become University provost, made it a priority to establish a new home for the Faculty Club. Provost H. Neil McFarland provided the property at 3034 Daniel Avenue, then a sorority house, in 1973. The club was officially chartered in that location on August 6, 1973.
Two 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.
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.
“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.
In 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.
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.