The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2 - 59

Chris Heasley * Katie Boone * Denise L. Davidson

information regarding room selection timeline
and process, housing costs, housing contract
terms, roommate selection, and financial aid
for housing expenses. While students prided
themselves as savvy consumers by performing due diligence in their housing selection
decision-making process, their efforts were not
always congruent with reality.

Impact of first-year experiences. Focus
group participants collectively spoke to a sense
of community being strongly cultivated during
their first-year experience as an on-campus
residential student. Influencing factors of
community were reported by participants as
shared experiences with other residents, building-wide social programs, and building design.
Opportunities for interactions with others,
in small and large group settings, were central
to building community. As the community
developed organically, residents began to recognize others within the building, providing
familiarity and feelings of membership. A
Western University P3 student commented,
"[I]n my freshmen year [residing in an on-campus residence hall], I felt like everybody in the
hall knew each other or at least they knew their
names or they'd seen each other, and . . . more
people turned out to the events." When asked
to elaborate, several participants affirmed that
both unintentional encounters (passing one
another in the hallway, short dialogue while
checking their mailbox, or small talk while
waiting for an elevator) and planned events
took place frequently, thereby reinforcing community within their first year in an on-campus
residence.
Planned events such as academic and
social programs hosted by resident assistants
were great assets in shaping SOC. However,
58

Students' Sense of Community

While prominent in drawing initial
interest to a particular facility, the
aesthetic appeal of the building
and its surrounding grounds were
tertiary considerations impacting
building choice, losing prominence
to affordability and a peer support
network within the community.

participants indicated that they outgrew the
need for RA-initiated and facilitated community-building efforts by their sophomore year.
A Western University P3 student elaborated,
noting, "freshmen in the dorms . . . feel more
open" to attending RA community-building
programs. This finding confirms the meaningfulness of paraprofessionals in helping to build
community but also that students' willingness
to attend housing-sponsored programs lessens
dramatically as they transition out of first year
housing. As upper-division students, participants had an established peer group and did
not consider themselves part of the larger residential community. Once past their first year,
students felt that the responsibility to create a
sense of community was theirs and not that of
housing staff.
Building design within first-year residences
also contributed to community development.
A majority of participants felt that doubleloaded corridor living during one's first year
in college was extremely beneficial in building
a strong sense of community. As one Eastern

THE JOURNAL OF COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY STUDENT HOUSING

University campus residence hall student articulated, "Freshmen dorms were the greatest.
[In] communal bathrooms you usually strike
up a conversation . . . I had 59 chances to strike
up a conversation and make friends."
In contrast, feeling isolated was described
as the result of closed doors in their current
upper-division residences. A Western University P3 student summarized thoughts expressed by many focus group participants:
I don't really feel that much sense of
community because, like I said before, it's
like you only meet people if you really want
to meet people. If you really want to meet
people you have to make the initiative to go
to the events and meet people, but if you
don't really try, then you're just gonna know
the people that live in your apartment.
Students indicated that they often lacked
the desire to create a sense of community with
new residents outside of their existing peer
network, a cohort often comprising individuals they met in their first-year residence hall.
All focus group participants (both P3 and oncampus residents) that lived on campus during
their first year affirmed this notion.

Upper-division residence facility design.
Aesthetic facility design and room layout were
described as influential in SOC development.
Participants broadly used the word design to
describe facility attractiveness based on the
property's age, landscaping, amenities, and
furnishings. For participants, the greater desirability of a facility was often associated with
higher SOC across all four elements of the
framework, especially for influence. Still, while
design factors were prominent in SOC discussions, they were less important than financial
and geographic considerations.

As noted earlier, floor plan arrangement
influenced community development, both
positively and negatively. Problematic building
features included private outside entrances to
apartments, multiple access points into the facility which lessened opportunities to interact
with residents, no elevator or spaces for incidental interactions, and plans that were too
expensive or dense-all of which prohibited
frequent engagement opportunities with fellow
residents. When referencing these design elements, students made frequent comparisons
to the more favorable floor plan configurations within first-year residences. As a campus
residence hall student from Eastern University
shared, "If I had the chance, I would live back
where I lived freshman year. I honestly loved
the traditional sense. Like my door; I would
love to be able to keep my door open." Other
participants contradicted this desire for interaction by reporting that they enjoyed having
an exterior unit entrance, thereby bypassing
a central lobby, and that they appreciated the
privacy their unit design afforded.

DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS
Sense of community can be experienced differently by students based on where they reside
(Devlin et al., 2008; Heasley, 2013; Heasley et
al., 2015). Expanding on this, findings from
this study begin to elucidate student outcomes
for campus residences and P3 student housing.
Based on present literature, the researchers hypothesized that SOC would differ between residents of campus housing and P3 properties.
An initial quantitative finding supports a difference in SOC between housing type for the
element of influence. However, the associated
small effect size renders the finding's overall

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The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2

Contents
The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2 - Intro
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