The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2 - 69

Phia S. Salter * Dustin K. Grabsch * Jaren D. Crist * Jagadesh Lagisetty * Lane B. Dyer * Estephanie Olvera

spaces and their association with student
success. Measures of college environments
belong to a larger research method called environmental assessment, which encompasses
everything that happens to a student during the
course of attaining their degree or credential
that might conceivably influence the outcomes
under consideration (Astin & Antonio, 2012).
As Astin and Antonio (2012) note, "environmental assessment presents by far the most
difficult and complex challenge in the field of
assessment. It is also the most neglected topic"
(p. 87). Because of the large scope, a number of
approaches to conduct environmental assessment have emerged, yet more work is needed
in this area.

POST-OCCUPANCY
EVALUATIONS
One prominent approach within the architecture (Zimring & Reizenstein, 1980), engineering (Choi, Loftness, & Aziz, 2012), and
higher education (Riley, Kokkarinen, & Pitt,
2010) bodies of knowledge is the Post-Occupancy Evaluation (POE), which was defined by
Preiser, Rabinowitz, and White (2015) as the
process of evaluating buildings in a systematic
and rigorous manner after they have been
built and occupied for some time. POEs
focus on building occupants and their needs,
and thus they provide insights into the
consequences of past design decisions and
the resulting performance. This knowledge
forms a sound basis for creating better
buildings in the future. (p. 3)
There are a number of short-, mid-, and
long-term benefits to conducting POEs. Some
short-term benefits are improving space utilization and feedback on the building, understanding the performance implications of changes
68

dictated by budget cuts, and improving the attitude of building users through their active
involvement in the building evaluation process
(Preiser et al., 2015). Mid-term benefits include
a "built-in capability for facility adaptation to
organizational change and growth over time,
including recycling of facilities into new uses"
(Preiser et al., 2015, p. 5). Finally, long-term benefits for conducting a POE are improvements
to building performance and design databases,
standards, and guidance literature (Preiser et al.,
2015). Thus, architects, engineers, and higher
education professionals often use a POE to understand how buildings, spaces, and design elements guide the developmental and learning
outcomes of a student's college experience.
POEs are not without limitations and considerations. Taking a broad-brush approach,
Vischer (2001) identified the "barriers to widespread adoption of POE [as] cost, defending
professional integrity, time and skills" (p. 23).
Zimmerman and Martin (2001) examined
these barriers specifically from the architectural perspective. From the perspective of housing
and residence life professionals, we posit some
additional considerations. First, users of our
residential spaces do not always have access to
the mission or goals intended to be achieved
by our residential or academic support spaces.
Therefore, they may not provide relevant feedback unless prompted by researchers. A second
consideration important to higher education
professionals is that user satisfaction with
spaces does not equate with a feeling of inclusion; therefore, users who are not accessing the
spaces often are not included in POEs. A final
consideration is that users do not always know
why they do what they do (Nisbett & Wilson,
1977); a user may be unaware of all the factors

THE JOURNAL OF COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY STUDENT HOUSING

Residential Academic Support Spaces

The community dimension
emphasizes a congenial atmosphere
and describes a friendly campus
with a feeling of social cohesion
that encompasses the college
environment as a whole.

that influenced their behavior or even may be
unaware that they have engaged in a particular
behavior (e.g., Banaji & Greenwald, 2016). For
instance, a user of a particular space with large
and numerous windows may or may not know
that they are drawn to the space because of the
natural lighting. 	
For a considerable time, housing and residence life professionals have been concerned
with the impacts of residence halls and their
associated educational and developmental spaces. Penven, Stephens, Shushok, and
Keith (2013), in their discussion of Gordon's
(1974) germinal work, "Living and Learning in
College," wrote as follows:
There have been at least two visions for
residence halls as long as they have existed.
The first, mostly pragmatic in nature, has
been to provide students a safe, affordable,
and sometimes comfortable place to live
while they pursue their education. Alongside
this "sleep and eat" model of residential
life, others have advocated the potential
of residence halls to be an instrument of
learning in and of themselves. (p. 115)
Residence life professionals have experimented with many ways to structure positive
educational environments in student housing;

however, much of the existing research
focuses on programmatic interventions (Blimling, 2015) rather than evaluations of space.
New construction and significant renovations
(Balogh, Price, & Moser, 2009) have enabled
housing and residence life professionals to
integrate various academic support spaces
within their housing portfolios. As Quinn
and colleagues (2019) wrote in a Talking Stick
article, "Then and Now: Enhancing Academic
Initiatives on Campus by Taking Cues from
History,"
History shows that there was a time when
academic initiatives didn't exist. In his article
about the history of collegiate housing,
Charles Frederiksen notes that when Harvard
opened its doors in 1636, they relied on the
local community to house students, and
other institutions at the time followed this
tradition. This generally kept academics tied
to classrooms, and life management was the
responsibility of the so-called dorm moms off
campus. Look how far we have come. After
years of following the Oxford and Cambridge
model and after surviving the impact of World
War II that brought cold military barracksstyle halls with limited space, we have arrived
at a time when academic initiatives are not
only thriving but are the backbone of so many
successful student careers. (p. 26)
This trend has created innovative designs
for learning centers in student residential facilities but has also presented challenges in
allocating limited resources (Zhiri, 2018). But
how effective are these designs and spaces in
encouraging student success, and are they effective enough to warrant such investments?
With a continual focus on integrating student
learning in residence halls, researchers can
bolster their focus on academic support
V O L U M E 4 6 , NO. 2 * 2 0 2 0

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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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