Research Residence Life Residential Commons

Researcher Insights: Defining Data

SMU Researcher Autumn Beck is a junior majoring in Business Management and Film and Media Studies, with minors in Chinese and Law and Legal Reasoning. In addition to participating in research, Autumn is Director of Community Collaborations for the Housing Unification Board (HUB), VP of Programming for Program Council, and a non-voting member of the Wilkinson Center for the SMU Board Fellows Program. Autumn is part of a five-member team who developed the project, A Content Analysis of College Student Proposed Definitions of Sense of Belonging to a Residential Community.

 The research included an inductive content analysis of responses to the survey questions the team developed.

“We asked [students] about a variety of factors that measured their sense of belonging to their Residential Commons and about what specific factors developed that sense of belonging,” Autumn said. “We noticed many students put much of the burden of creating a sense of belonging on the leadership of and spaces within the Commons.”

As a student leader who works a lot with the Residential Commons and students’ sense of belonging, Autumn wanted to participate in research that proactively continued to enhance the student experience. 

The research started in July; Autumn collaborated in writing the survey, organizing and analyzing the data, developing a definition, and writing the manuscript. The team recently sent off a manuscript for publication. 

“We submitted the manuscript for publication to ACUHO-I: The Journal of College and University Student Housing,” Autumn said.

Autumn also recently presented findings from the Belonging study at SMU Research Days 2020-2021. You can find her recorded presentation on YouTube.

As a result of the project, Autumn said she realized that “belonging” is more subjective than the team initially thought. For instance, living in Boaz Commons provides a different experience than living in Crum Commons. While the experiences are different in their methods, both contribute to a students’ sense of belonging.


A Longitudinal Study of Sense of Belonging to a Residential College (SMU IRB: H20-126-GRAD

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. 

Autumn can be contacted at If you’d like to learn more about the Academic Initiatives Research Team, please email

By Laura Bell, Sarah Venables

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