News and Announcements Research Residence Life

Academic Initiatives – Announcing 2020-2021 Research Projects

Residence Life and Student Housing (RLSH) is excited to announce our research projects for this upcoming academic year. The RLSH Research Team is made of students, faculty, and staff members performing research to inform data-driven decision making at the departmental level to support SMU students. We will be working on the following projects:


Historical Academic and Student Success in Residential Life 

Residence Life and Student Housing has designed an exploratory research study to understand variables associated with student retention, graduation, and other student success indicators based on existing housing and institutional data from current and former on-campus residents at SMU. Specifically, the study intends to understand the potential impacts of housing and the Residential Commons model on the included indicators. The study is intended to include a timeframe that encompasses the establishment of the Residential Commons circa fall 2012 to spring 2019.  

SMU IRB: H19-069-GRAD 


Developing a Thriving Student Experience 

The overall purpose of the study is to understand the thriving of underrepresented college students. For the purposes of this study, underrepresented students include transfer students, international students, and first-generation college students. This study uses a sequential exploratory design consisting of two distinct phases. In this design, quantitative, numeric data will be collected using the Thriving Quotient instrument. These data will aid in purposely sampling participants for the second phase. The second phase of the project will help explain or elaborate on the quantitative results obtained in phase one. Individual interviews will be used to elaborate on the quantitative findings for each of the underrepresented student groups.  

SMU IRB: H19-112-GRAD 


Student Engagement in Residential College System 

Residence Life and Student Housing staff are interested to understand resident engagement within a Residential College model. Utilizing data from an engagement tracking database, we hope to answer, what does engagement look like across residential communities? What demographics of students are most and least engaged? Plus, what is the relationship between student engagement levels and GPA? Persistence? 

SMU IRB: H20-001-GRAD 


The Impact of COVID-19 on the College Student Experience 

The purpose of this study is to explore how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the college student experience of undergraduate SMU students. The research team will conduct semi-structured, individual interviews with students to gather information around the positive impact on their experience, the drawbacks around this pandemic, and the impact on institutional affinity. This qualitative study will give a basis for additional quantitative analysis in the future.  

SMU IRB: H20-058-GRAD 


A Longitudinal Study of Sense of Belonging to a Residential College 

Since the implementation of the Residential Commons (RC), SMU Residence Life and Student Housing has widely discussed the idea of residents belonging to their Residential Commons. Each Commons has a unique identity, crest, and members which has led to the creation of unique programs, traditions, and experiences for each RC. To this point, SMU RLSH has not identified or measured strategies for increasing belonging, or examined the impact RC belonging has on the overall student experience. This research is focused on identifying factors that cause affiliation towards a student’s Residential Commons. The research will be conducted in two parts, a pre and post-test, to examine student self-reported affiliation factors. Students do not need to complete both parts of the survey for research to be completed.  

SMU IRB: H20-126-GRAD 


Residential Colleges & Culture Development 

The framework for this research is developed from Schein’s model of Organizational Culture and Leadership and incorporates relevant residential college examples from our own practice as new professionals entering an already established residential college culture. PIs will interview Residential College Senior Leadership to understand their experiences entering into, making sense of, working with, and shaping/changing culture within residential colleges while working within departmental structures and working in collaboration with faculty and students.  

SMU IRB: H19-105-NICB 


Employability (Project CEO) for On-Campus Residents 

Project CEO (Co-curricular Experience Outcomes), looks at how institutions can better prepare students to make the transition from their campuses to the career marketplace? Using the annual Job Outlook survey from NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) as a starting point for data collection, Project CEO focuses on student perceptions of skill development and attainment, especially in relation to co-curricular experiences. The research also considers the impact of off-campus employment as well as the first-generation student experience. 

SMU IRB: In Preparation 


Engage Dallas: Test Re-Test of Place-based Community Engagement 

The overall purpose of this study is to determine the impact that a new place-based community engagement program has on undergraduate students at SMU. Engage Dallas, a new community engagement initiative that links undergraduate students at SMU with underprivileged communities in South and West Dallas, will be implemented beginning in Fall 2020 as an opportunity to fulfill the Community Engagement requirement of the University Curriculum. In order to measure the impact that this program has on participating students, a pre/mid/post-test survey will be designed and given to students. This instrument will be administered through Canvas, at the beginning of the student’s experience with Engage Dallas, after the student completes three engagements related to the course, and again at the conclusion of the student’s experience with Engage Dallas. An analysis of the completed surveys will allow us to determine the impact that Engage Dallas has on students’ attitudes toward community service and inform the larger higher education community. 

SMU IRB: H20-129-GRAD 


Faith and Spirituality On-Campus: Exploring the Spiritual Needs of Students

This project will focus on analyzing student engagement with spirituality through the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life as well as other faith-based campus resources. The project will use both qualitative and quantitative methods to understand and gauge if the spiritual needs of students are being met, and how SMU can support students’ spiritual lives. Utilizing Astin, Astin, and Lindholm (2010) national study of undergraduates’ spiritual growth, we seek to understand the spiritual and faith needs of on-campus residential students. Results may inform the work of religious and spiritual life centers.

SMU IRB: In Preparation


A Thematic Analysis of Conference Programs for Residential College Professional Associations

In this study, team members will review past conference program materials for two leading residential college conferences, the Collegiate Way and the Residential College Society (RCS). This content analysis will reveal topics covered each year, and analyze repetition and importance of the material covered at each conference. This analysis will hopefully provide insight into common struggles of residential colleges nationwide.



With these projects, we hope to participate in SMU Research Days, submit 4 manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals, submit 10 program proposals, and apply for 2 grants. We will continue to engage with Undergraduate Research Assistants (URAs), graduate researchers, faculty, and staff team members to expand knowledge on the impact of RLSH programs and communities on the student experience at SMU. If you have any questions, or are looking to get involved please email 

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