Residential Life and Learning: Building on Michigan Traditions
Charge to the Committee
Student learning at the University of Michigan extends far beyond the classroom. We seek to create an exciting and engaging environment in which students of all backgrounds and experiences can succeed and take advantage of the University’s vast array of opportunities to connect with one another, with faculty, and with assets and resources for intellectual and personal growth. Living spaces, classes and places of public gathering are all part of this environment. The Commission on the Undergraduate Experience used the simile of the University as a good city: “the undergraduate experience at the University of Michigan should give students entry into an inclusive, expansive community, and tools for exploration and change.”
The residence halls, and the neighborhoods that they comprise, are vital components in the “good city” of the University. These neighborhoods build upon the University’s cosmopolitan and civic-minded nature, are inclusive, dynamic and welcoming. We want them to house attractive and exciting communities that are rich with prospects for students to grow intellectually and personally. Neighborhoods that will facilitate, expand and deepen academic experience: that are conducive to study, well-appointed with tools for discovery and learning, and replete with exciting possibilities for intellectual exploration and collaboration embedded within living spaces. Neighborhoods that also complement students’ academic experience with numerous openings for personal growth: that encourage reflection in multiple venues with multiple communities not only on what is studied in the classroom but on how that relates to experiential realities. We can envision residential neighborhoods in our “city” that will facilitate the development of “citizens” who are intellectually engaged and cultured; who are caring about one another; who are good neighbors; who can successfully resolve conflicts; who take ownership in their community; and who want to live and learn together.
UM is now developing plans for a major expansion and revitalization of student residential halls and dining facilities, and we have the opportunity to create residential spaces that will help transform students’ campus life and that will enrich Michigan’s ability to attract the most intellectually engaged students. We have the opportunity to create something truly new, to create a Michigan difference in residential living.
Prior Work and Current Situation
In 2001, the President’s Commission on the Undergraduate Experience issued a report that touched at many points upon student residential life and its role in creating the “good city.”
In Fall 2001, a team appointed by the VP for Student Affairs, responding in part to the Commission’s recommendations, developed a set of Major Guiding Principles for the Residence Halls. This document is attached.
The National Study of Living-Learning Programs, which originated at Michigan and in which Michigan participates, has issued recent reports on the impact of residential environments and living-learning programs on student life and academic engagement.
The University is developing plans to construct a new Hill Area Dining Hall. This will vacate space in the Hill Area residence halls, and that vacated space can be utilized for new purposes under this presidential initiative. In the future, construction and renovation might similarly provide vacated spaces at other sites on campus.
The University is developing plans to construct new residence halls, beginning with one on central campus, the site still to be determined.
Now we must review the principles and framework, and create the programmatic plan, concepts and infrastructure to make those general principles operational and realize the ideal of the good city in the University’s residential neighborhoods, with the opportunities presented by proposed renovation and new construction.
The committee is charged to:
- Review, refine, amend, and adapt the Guiding Principles, and develop a broad vision for residential life, including the concepts needed to guide the design, construction, renovation and programming of residential spaces for students that will:
- Integrate academic and residential life more fully and imaginatively, by means of physical environment and programming. The committee should explore innovative ways to co-locate academic, residential and social spaces and activities so as to facilitate interactions among students, faculty and graduate student instructors.
- Provide opportunities for personal and intellectual development that complement academic experience, and that promote the good life as an engaged and examined life of growth, and a life with a public dimension.
- Ensure that all students in residence halls have an excellent and well-equipped environment in which to study, learn, explore, collaborate, experience, live, and grow, personally and intellectually.
- Provide recommendations that afford flexibility in overall use and design so as to better ensure a longer life and better use of resources.
- Apply the principles and framework to the spaces vacated in the Hill Area residence halls, recommending creative uses for those spaces consistent with their basic physical configurations.
- Apply the principles and framework to consideration of a new residence hall on central campus, and recommend bold, creative concepts to guide the programming for new construction which reinforces the vision of dynamic, new residential neighborhoods with increased integration of residential and academic life.
The process and procedures of the committee must be aligned with established milestones and target dates for planning new construction and renovation. The immediate deadline requires that the committee produce recommendations by November 2004, in order to provide guidance to the architectural firms involved in both re-designing vacant dining space as well as construction of new student housing.