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New York, NY, June 29, 2021 -- While residence life looked different this past academic year, for many it maintained the important function of keeping students connected and engaged. Skyfactor Benchworks, a Macmillan Learning company, recognized a record number of colleges using data-driven programs to support on campus living with the Assessment and Impact Award for Housing and Residence Life.
The 2021 winners reflect diversity in institution type, size, location, and initiatives, including: Miles Community College, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, Oxford College of Emory University, The University of Tampa, University of Alaska Southeast, University of Central Florida and University of Northern Colorado.
“Residence life has never been both more challenging and more important than during the past year, as programs faced profound issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, housing programs carried on, made changes, adjusted, and continued their work to improve the student experience. The seven institutions recognized this year used data-driven insights to make meaningful improvements to the residential experience and we’re proud to recognize their work,” said Steven Ray, Vice President of Enterprise Solutions for Macmillan Learning.
Residence life has historically played an important role in building community, ensuring students' success in college and improving graduation rates. Several studies have documented the connection, including research from Skyfactor, which found that the students who reported that their housing experience helped them make connections with other students in their courses were more likely to report that their housing experience contributed to their overall learning. Additional research from the University of Maryland found that students who lived on campus for at least their freshman year were 22% more likely to graduate within four years than students who lived off campus and research from the University of Oregon found that full-time freshmen have higher GPAs, retention rates, and graduation rates when they spend their first academic year living in university housing.
The Assessment and Impact Award for Residence Life was established in 2019 to recognize colleges that demonstrate intentionality in using insights from data to improve their residence life programs. Skyfactor Benchworks recognized four housing programs in 2019 and three programs in 2020. The larger class of winners in 2021 reflects the breadth and enormity of the efforts from housing departments across the country to adapt and adjust to changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While some assessments took place prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the insights and lessons are applicable to current transition to a post-pandemic college experience:
- Miles Community College in Montana was recognized for high performance on survey scores related to sustainability. Their housing department created intentional programming related to recycling and food equity and worked to adjust their food offerings to have more vegan and locally-sourced options. They were also involved in a campus service initiative that encouraged students to volunteer in the local community, and included opportunities to connect with sustainability and food-related efforts given the campus’ rural location.
- Millersville University of Pennsylvania was recognized for significant improvements to survey scores related to personal interactions, diverse interactions, and satisfaction with student staff. The increases followed the implementation of a new resident engagement model, modifications to student staff training, and a focus on living-learning communities to align with the University’s new strategic plan and EPPIIC Values.
- Oxford College of Emory University was recognized for high performance on survey scores related to diverse interactions and satisfaction with student staff. Their housing program worked to embed values of diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout their department, including residential education, student staff training, and community-building.
- University of Alaska Southeast was recognized for their significant improvement in survey scores related to residence hall environment satisfaction. Their housing department had recently adjusted staff training to better address conflict management, implemented roommate agreements, and found small ways to individually recognize and show appreciation for residents.
- The University of Central Florida was recognized for significant improvement to survey scores related to sense of community. Their department made major changes as a result of COVID-19, including modifications to their residential curriculum, earlier connections with new students prior to the start of the year, and intentional efforts to connect students with programs and organizations.
- University of Northern Colorado was recognized for significant improvement to survey scores related to community environment satisfaction. Over the past three years, the program transitioned from a traditional programming model to one focused around one-on-one conversations between residents and student staff, in particular to help first-year residents in their transition to college.
- The University of Tampa was recognized for significant improvement in survey scores related to academic initiatives and personal interactions. Their increase followed the implementation of a new residential education model that feeds into campus-wide competency development and graduation-related initiatives.
The winners were selected this spring through the company’s data-driven process. Macmillan Learning’s Analytics & Research Team analyzed multiple years of data from the ACUHO-I/Benchworks Resident Assessment to identify programs with both consistently high scores and significant improvements in survey scores. Institutions using the Resident Assessment were also allowed to self-nominate for the award. The team then interviewed staff from these campuses to learn about the efforts and initiatives in place at each program. An external review team of experts in the profession then blind reviewed and scored each finalist on a rubric.
Skyfactor also has an Assessment and Impact Award for nursing education programs, with the call for these nominations launching early next month. The self-nominations for next year’s housing and residence life awards will launch in early 2022.
About Skyfactor Benchworks
Benchworks assessments have been available for two decades and are the most widely used assessments in higher education housing. The ACUHO-I/Benchworks Residents Assessment is used by nearly 300 institutions each year, and is one of more than 50 different assessments from Benchworks on topics important to college success, including housing, orientation, and student affairs and service. The survey includes questions about student satisfaction with facilities, programs, dining, safety, room assignment, and roommates, as well as learning related to personal interactions, diversity, sense of community, academic success, transferable skills, sustainability, and healthy habits.
About Macmillan Learning
Macmillan Learning is a privately-held, family-owned company that improves lives through learning. By linking research to learning practice, we develop pioneering products and learning materials for students that are highly effective and drive improved outcomes. To learn more, please visit macmillanlearning.com or join our Macmillan Community.