Residence life

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Residence Life is the terminology used to describe the comprehensive program that surrounds the experience of living "on and off campus" in a residence hall at a college or university in Canada and the United States. Residence Life is usually structured with planned events (called "programming"), a code of conduct and/or ethics, and a relatively large array of staff.


Residence Life aims to facilitate a students' transition to post-secondary. Residence halls vary in size and population however, they accommodate hundreds of young adults. Residence Life is integral in the student experience at most post-secondary institutions due to a variety of benefits listed below. Overall, Residence Life aims to make residence more than a place to eat and sleep but rather, a place to explore identity and explore personal ideologies through experiences living away from home.[1] Typically, many students live in residence at some point in their post-secondary experience. More often, this is during their first year at the institution.

Social/Interpersonal Development: Provides an environment that is conducive to personal connections with peers.[2] Provides an opportunity to be socialized in a new environment (campus).

Convenience: Living in residence provides the opportunity to live in close proximity to academic classrooms, faculty and campus resources.[3]

Facilitated Social Activities (also called Programming[3]): Hosted by professional staff or student staff, social activities are aimed to promote a sense of community and belonging in residence.[4][5] This is important for residence students because of the ability to ensure students are able to effectively integrate to a post-secondary campus.[6] Programming is aimed at student development by providing co-curricular learning experiences.[7]

Residential Curriculum:[8] Produced by residence life or residence education professionals, students are provided with programming with intentional learning opportunities while living in residence buildings.[9] This curriculum is often connected to learning goals set forth by the department.

Academic Success: Specific live-in staff aimed at supporting academics of residence students. Utilizing faculty and student affairs staff, students have access to specific support that is aided by student proximity to classrooms, faculty and academic resources.[10] Residence learning communities (RLCs) (also referred to as living-learning communities (LLCs)[11][12]), are targeted building areas that cluster students grouped based on academic program or interest. The purpose of these communities are to provide students additional support and faculty connections. This also allows students to easily create study groups with classmates and increased sense of belonging.[13] Students in these communities are typically taking similar or at least one course that is the same. These students also typically see a higher GPA upon leaving residence at the end of their first year.[14][15]

Safety, Security & Support: Access to residence halls is typically limited to residents living in the building, this security is maintained by strict keys and access utilizing Student ID. Other strategies in maintaining student safety include, residence student staff and professional staff that live-in to provide 24 hour on-call support. This on-call support is aimed at providing support to students who are struggling with mental wellness concerns. In addition, students are able to have direct access to campus police able to provide immediate police support.

Involvement/Leadership Opportunities: Living in residence provides students access to leadership opportunities like residence council and student staff residence roles like Resident Assistants.

Increased Intercultural Competency: Residence provides the opportunity for students to meet other students from different cultural backgrounds. Residence Life focuses on the ability to ensure equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is a priority.This increases intercultural competence for students.[16]


As one of three components of a college/university housing program,[17] Residence Life is often one responsibility of a larger Housing office or department. On some campuses, however, Residence Life and Housing are responsibilities of separate departments or organizations.

Residence Life, or the department which encompasses it, usually reports to the Division of Student Affairs. However, on campuses with a separate Housing department it is not uncommon for that department to report to the Business Services or Auxiliary Services division or area as most of their responsibilities will be financial, legal, and physical (as opposed to the developmental nature of "pure" Residence Life).

Regardless of which division to which it reports, Housing departments are usually self-supporting auxiliary departments which receive little or no financial support from the college/university (i.e. tuition or fees). They are dependent on revenue from rent and cost-recovery mechanisms (damage charges, bills for services such as network or telephone service, etc.).[18]


Professional staff[edit]

Residence Life professionals typically possess post-secondary degrees and in some cases have obtained a Masters Degree in college student personnel, higher education, counseling, or a related field. Typical Residence Life departments are overseen by a director, associate director, or assistant director; these positions may be "live-on" (required to live on campus), depending on the needs of the university and the size of the staff required to be on-call to respond to student emergencies.

Many campuses also employ graduate students, graduate assistants or entry-level professionals (most commonly with master's degrees) that directly supervise the RAs and other undergraduate staff (such as desk workers). This staff are variously referred to as Hall Directors (HDs), Resident Directors (RDs), or Residence Life Coordinators (RLCs). The titles vary between institutions with some institutions using the same title to refer to their graduate student staff that another uses for their entry-level staff. These staff members are "live-in" (required to live in the residence hall, often in a larger or otherwise extraordinary space) or live-on to fulfill their frequent on-call duties.

Student staff[edit]

Typically, each residence hall also employs several Resident Assistants, or RAs. These are undergraduate or graduate students who are tasked with helping the students living on their hallway get to know each other. Resourceful RAs can use a variety of planned or spontaneous events—called programming in the field's nomenclature—to this end. They are also charged with enforcing university rules and regulations and providing general assistance to residents. RAs are often reimbursed with free or discounted room, free or discounted board, a stipend, or even all three. On most campuses, RAs receive intense training at the beginning of the academic year. In addition to ongoing training, some campuses have several days of training at the beginning of the second semester.

If the residence hall has a front desk or area office, it is often manned by students who provide assistance to the residents such as accepting packages delivered to the residence hall, reporting maintenance problems, or opening doors for residents who have lost their key(s) (often for a charge).

Some Resident Assistants may also be assigned overnight duty. Overnight duty is when a Resident Assistant is on call all night. Most of the time Resident Assistants are in their hall office till 12:00 am. After 12:00 am they are to report to their room for the rest of the night. On call duties consist of helping with lock outs and noise complaints.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Vandeyar, S.; Mohale, A. M. (August 2016). "Embracing Diversity: The Case of EquityRes, a Student Residence at Urban University". Journal of Social Sciences. 48 (3): 161–173. doi:10.1080/09718923.2016.11893580. ISSN 0971-8923.
  2. ^ Magolda, Marcia B. Baxter; Astin, Alexander W. (November 1993). "What "Doesn't" Matter in College?". Educational Researcher. 22 (8): 32. doi:10.2307/1176821.
  3. ^ a b "The Benefits of Living on Campus: Do Residence Halls Provide Distinctive Environments of Engagement?". Retrieved 2020-02-08.
  4. ^ McMillan, David W.; Chavis, David M. (January 1986). <6::aid-jcop2290140103>;2-i "Sense of community: A definition and theory". Journal of Community Psychology. 14 (1): 6–23. doi:10.1002/1520-6629(198601)14:1<6::aid-jcop2290140103>;2-i. ISSN 0090-4392.
  5. ^ Burlison, Mary Beth (June 2015). "Nonacademic Commitments Affecting Commuter Student Involvement and Engagement". New Directions for Student Services. 2015 (150): 27–34. doi:10.1002/ss.20124. ISSN 0164-7970.
  6. ^ Lefever, Ruth (2012-01-01). Carol, Taylor; Carol, Robinson (eds.). "Exploring student understandings of belonging on campus". Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education. 4 (2): 126–141. doi:10.1108/17581181211273075. ISSN 2050-7003.
  7. ^ Murrell, Susan P.; Denzine, Gypsy; Murrell, Patricia H. (January 1998). "COMMUNITY COLLEGE RESIDENCE HALLS: A HIDDEN TREASURE". Community College Journal of Research and Practice. 22 (7): 663–674. doi:10.1080/1066892980220704. ISSN 1066-8926.
  8. ^ Kerr, Kathleen G.; Tweedy, James (November 2006). "Beyond seat time and student satisfaction: A curricular approach to residential education". About Campus. 11 (5): 9–15. doi:10.1002/abc.181. ISSN 1086-4822.
  9. ^ Buckner, Donald (September 2006). "Restructuring Residence Hall Programming: Residence Hall Educators with a Curriculum". Journal of College Student Personnel. 18 (5): 389–392 – via ERIC Ed.
  10. ^ Moos, Rudolf; Lee, Elisabeth (1979). "Comparing residence hall and independent living settings". Research in Higher Education. 11 (3): 207–221. doi:10.1007/bf00975125. ISSN 0361-0365.
  11. ^ Hobbins, Justine O; Eisenbach, Mildred; Ritchie, Kerry L; Jacobs, Shoshanah (2018-09-30). "Investigating the Relationship between Residence Learning Community Participation and Student Academic Outcomes in a Canadian Institution". The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 9 (2). doi:10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2018.2.7. ISSN 1918-2902.
  12. ^ Petracchi, Helen E.; Weaver, Addie; Engel, Rafael J.; Kolivoski, Karen M.; Das, Rachelle (2010-08-20). "An Assessment of Service Learning in a University Living-Learning Community: Implications for Community Engagement". Journal of Community Practice. 18 (2–3): 252–266. doi:10.1080/10705422.2010.490743. ISSN 1070-5422.
  13. ^ Spanierman, Lisa B.; Soble, Jason R.; Mayfield, Jennifer B.; Neville, Helen A.; Aber, Mark; Khuri, Lydia; De La Rosa, Belinda (July 2013). "Living Learning Communities and Students' Sense of Community and Belonging". Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice. 50 (3): 308–325. doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0022. ISSN 1949-6591.
  14. ^ Purdie, John R. Examining the academic performance and retention of first-year students in living-learning communities, freshmen interest groups and first year experience courses (Thesis). University of Missouri Libraries.
  15. ^ López Turley, Ruth N.; Wodtke, Geoffrey (July 2010). "College Residence and Academic Performance: Who Benefits From Living on Campus?". Urban Education. 45 (4): 506–532. doi:10.1177/0042085910372351. ISSN 0042-0859.
  16. ^ Vandeyar, S.; Mohale, A. M. (August 2016). "Embracing Diversity: The Case of EquityRes, a Student Residence at Urban University". Journal of Social Sciences. 48 (3): 161–173. doi:10.1080/09718923.2016.11893580. ISSN 0971-8923.
  17. ^ The ACUHO-I Ethical Principles and Standards for College and University Student Housing Professionals Archived 2014-05-31 at the Wayback Machine lays out the three components of a college/university housing program: Business/Management, Education/Programming, and Physical Plant.
  18. ^ Barr & Desler's Handbook of Student Affairs Administration (2000, p. 131) note that management of auxiliary budgets occupy nearly all (as much as 80%) of a chief student affairs fiscal responsibility; this underlines the complexity of this financial management and the potential conflict between the institution's responsibility for financial solvency and student development.