The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2 - 83

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

dialogue or allow them to feel a greater sense
of ownership by contributing to the positive
impact of the physical environment. As stated
previously, each RASS serves a unique student
community, so this recommendation could
be customized to engage different student
populations (e.g., undergraduate, graduate,
first-year). As an illustration, during finals for
undergraduate students, there could be a wall
reading "How are you preparing for finals?"
and in the graduate student community a wall
could highlight graduate school deadlines and
ask students to mark where they are in their
degree plan (e.g., coursework, proposal, candidacy, defense).
The awareness dimension considers how
the space encourages users to search for personal meaning through self-understanding,
reflectiveness, and identity. One research
team member made a recommendation specifically regarding Westside: "The layout of
the space is very simple and does not stimulate reflection. Furniture could be rearranged
in a more creative way." Another recommendation was to have "clipboards or lap desks to
check out to make couch space more usable."
Ultimately, this recommendation could also
improve practicality, but it is specific to the
awareness dimension as it could create space
for journaling, manual writing, sketching, or
other forms of expression aside from digital
environments on laptops, tablets, and the furnished desktop computers.
The propriety dimension assesses politeness and consideration of others within the
spaces. Overall, the RASSs scored well on
propriety because of table tents with courtesy
messages like "Be mindful of your volume"
and "Respect the space, clean up after your82

Because we utilized a pre-existing
framework as our basis for research,
elements of this analysis could
be transferred to other areas and
domains where residential life and
academics meet.

self." One recommendation for improving
propriety was to include "a semi-permanent
sign with community rules or expectations,"
and when staff post signs about maintenance
issues or closures, they too should use polite
and explanatory language, such as "Our apologies. This computer is out of order. We expect
it to be repaired in three to five business days."
Displaying expectations for propriety, encouraging propriety via table tents, and role-modeling propriety through staff behavior could
increase this dimension's score.
Of particular importance to a higher education institution is the dimension of scholarship.
A number of recommendations were made to
bolster the RASS scores in this area, especially
for Northside, as it achieved a notable negative
score in one of the subdimensions of scholarship. One research team member's recommendation was "adding study tips . . . across
all [RASSs] so that students can explore different ways of studying." Another research team
member commented that "the magazines/brochures offered are generally just talking about
how great [institution] [is] or give very basic information. Would be better to provide more relevant info on how to use [institution]'s various
academic support programs." Focusing more

THE JOURNAL OF COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY STUDENT HOUSING

Residential Academic Support Spaces

on academics in the RASS may contribute to
an environment that cues academic progress.
Additionally, this recommendation for tailored
academic support services and strategies personalizes the RASS as being affiliated with the
particular institution rather than being at any
college or university.
As expected, some recommendations pertained to multiple dimensions. For instance,
one recommendation encompassed both propriety and practicality: "If we are wanting the
[RASS] to be open to groups and individuals
trying to study, maybe we should consider
the layout and not put couches (where groups
meet) next to private study areas." This would
ensure a quieter space for individual study
while also supporting group work in a way that
would not disturb others in the space.
Finally, recommendations were made for
the researcher-developed dimension of inclusion and accessibility. One comment on Southside was that
the layout of the furniture makes the space
difficult to navigate, especially for a potentially
disabled person. The space accommodates
many people and given its location is naturally
louder during the middle of the day. . . . I
think if it is possible the furniture could be
rearranged to allow for easier travels from one
side of the space to another, especially when
the place has many students.
The researcher highlighted concern for
wheelchair users or students with mobility
issues as the space has few straight lines to
navigate from one side to another, requiring
navigation around furniture or pillars. Additionally, Southside and Eastside do not have
automatic doors with accessible push buttons.
While Eastside has doorbells that cue a staff

member to assist, this does not seem to be a
long-term solution. A final recommendation
by a team member was "when scholastic materials like books or resources are added to the
spaces or motivational quotations hung on
the walls, be sure to choose underrepresented
(e.g., brown, black, LGBTQ) authors, leaders,
and scholars." This intentional incorporation can signal inclusion to underrepresented
student users of the spaces.

DISCUSSION
The purpose of this research was to understand
how the built environment of four RASSs facilitates student development and academic
success. Specifically, we utilized the existing
CUES framework to conduct a sociocultural
analysis of four spaces by carefully observing
and documenting the various environmental elements or cues built into these spaces.
Because we utilized a pre-existing framework
as our basis for research, elements of this analysis could be transferred to other areas and
domains where residential life and academics
meet. Though the findings are described with
a particular case in mind, the research question (Does this space reflect or encourage a
friendly, cohesive, group-oriented place?) is not
limited to one specific university. In addition,
the qualitative approach and coding scheme
allowed researchers to focus their observations
on a priori considerations and integrate new insights based on emergent observations within
the different spaces. This process allowed us to
both note things that were present and absent
and make informed recommendations.
Across the research team, there were different perspectives that may have impacted our
qualitative observations, which may be seen as
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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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