The Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 1 - 57

Relationships and Learning Beyond the Classroom

. . . future research should seek
to understand the factors that
lead some students to become
disengaged from the collaborative
work of community-building in
residence halls, especially given
what we know about the ways
that students benefit from forming
connections and social support
systems through the residential
experience.

campus, helping them to experience less stress
and depression. The FIR program, in this way,
provided support that helped them overcome
their common challenges.
Our findings also provide a glimpse into
what deeper life interactions look like in the
context of an FIR program that is new and developing. The larger goal of FIR work is to help
students " understand that learning occurs everywhere " and to see that " the world is a classroom for exploration, reflection, and endless
learning " (Dolby, 2014, pp. 30-31). This kind
of learning took place when students had the
opportunity to engage in sustained interactions, relationship-building, and intellectual
discussion with FIRs. These higher levels of
interaction led to some of the most notable
outcomes of the FIR program when examined
from the perspectives of students, including
helping them address the big questions of life

and learn beyond the four walls of the higher
education classroom.
The most important practical implication of
the study concerns the role of relationships in
mediating the social-emotional and academic
benefits of the FIR program for residential students. While it is important that formal responsibilities are clearly outlined for faculty serving
as FIRs (e.g., implementing programs, eating
meals with students), it is equally important
that they understand that the most impactful
aspect of their work involves building relationships with students that allow for a deeper level
of engagement. FIR programming enhances
the student experience by opening the door for
FIRs to build community in the residence halls
and contribute to the holistic learning environment that student affairs professionals have
already established-and this is work primarily conducted through relationships.
Building and maintaining relationships
with students outside the classroom is complex
work, but it may be the most important work
of FIRs. These relationship skills are especially
important for new FIR programs that serve
students of color and first-generation college
students, as both groups have been disproportionately excluded from higher education opportunities and may stand to benefit the most
from relationships with faculty (Lundberg &
Schreiner, 2004).
Our case study design is limited in that our
sampling strategy included recruiting students
who had extensive experiences interacting with
FIRs. Using this strategy of examining information-rich cases, we were able to better understand the students who were attracted to the
FIR program and how they were impacted by
the FIR experience. However, we were not able
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Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 1

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