President Elson S. Floyd

Perspectives

Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 2/19/08

A Commitment to Student Housing

During the 1960s and 1970s, construction was under way on campuses nationwide to meet the needs of the Baby Boom generation. At many institutions, including Washington State University, the residence halls that were built then have continued to serve succeeding generations of students.

Much has changed over those three-plus decades. Today’s students have different expectations than their parents did. They are looking for different housing options. They need the latest high-tech infrastructure. Meanwhile, educators are focusing on how living spaces can enhance collaboration among students.

When I came to Washington State University last year, I made it a priority to quicken the pace of our efforts to improve residence halls on the Pullman campus.

It is not just about providing more attractive housing options, although that is certainly a consideration. We also need to provide areas that bring students together with a sense of shared purpose.

At WSU, our Academic Theme Living communities serve students with a specific academic interest. Through our nationally recognized Freshman Focus program, which we instituted in 2005, students have classes in common with their neighbors. That encourages them to study together and allows the development of residence hall programming that reinforces what students are doing in the classroom.

While there is no single best way to pursue a higher education, a residential campus offers some great advantages. Providing more attractive places for students to live and learn should help us improve retention and graduation rates and help students build stronger, supportive ties with others who share their interests.

Housing issues are not just a matter for Pullman. As our Vancouver, Tri-Cities and Spokane campuses expand their academic offerings, they also are seeing increased interest in student housing options.

Earlier this month, the Board of Regents approved two housing-related projects for the Pullman campus. One is a refurbishment of two towers of the Stephenson Complex. That will take place this summer. The other is a proposal for a new residence hall on Olympic Avenue, the first phase of which would provide about 180 beds.

These are just two parts of a long-term effort. Our goal is not to sharply increase the number of students living on campus. As some new rooms are developed, others will be taken off-line. We do hope to provide a wider variety of options to students, including single rooms and suites. We think these changes will help us recruit students and enhance their academic success after they arrive.

As our university grows, both in size and in the scope of its programs, our infrastructure must keep pace. Housing is an important part of that, and the progress our staff has made in recent months reflects well on our university’s ability to see a need and meet it.

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