All keyed up
Extended-campus residents dig the new Diggs
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With freshman enrollment at a record high, Mizzou has leased student-housing space in nearby Columbia apartment complexes. Each student gets a key to a bedroom, an apartment, a mailbox and a recreational area packed with luxury amenities.
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About 700 students, including 400 freshmen, are living in apartments at Tiger Diggs and Mizzou Quads. Mizzou’s Residential Life staff helped register and orient students during move-in.
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On move-in day, Kristi Bobb, a freshman journalism major from Blue Springs, Mo., relaxes in the living room she shares with three other students in a Tiger Diggs apartment.
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Community advisers help extended-campus students check in. This is the first year the electronic system has been used to streamline the process.
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Tiger Diggs features a recreation room equipped with games and a big-screen plasma TV. Students also have access to a swimming pool, a fitness center and a computer lab on site.
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Bobb signs for receipt of four keys to her new place.
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Bobb’s mother, Ann Van Horn, helps unload gear on move-in day. Bobb plans to ride the shuttle to campus but will take advantage of the ample parking at Tiger Diggs to keep her car nearby.
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Bobb climbs the stairs to her second floor apartment.
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Bobb got to know her suitemate, Dana White (left), online before coming to Mizzou. Bobb and White have private bedrooms and share a bathroom.
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Along with tip sheets, the extended-campus staff provides educational sessions about apartment life, with advice on cooking and cleaning.
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Van Horn and Bobb unpack the kitchen at Tiger Diggs. Bobb plans to do some cooking but, like other extended-campus residents, also has a flexible meal plan for dining on campus.
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Some old friends find a new home.
When freshman Kristi Bobb gets home from class this week, she can make a snack in her fully equipped kitchen, hit the pool for a game of water volleyball or get study tips from a Mizzou community adviser before retiring to her private bedroom.
At some universities, the combination of record-breaking freshman enrollment and limited residence-hall slots equals students tripling up in cramped dorm rooms and jostling for mirror space in communal lavatories.
At Mizzou, it means plasma TVs, private suites and elbow room — all part of the new extended-campus housing partnership forged between the university and two Columbia apartment complexes.
In early summer 2008, MU’s Department of Residential Life faced a conundrum. The university had to accommodate not only the largest freshman class in its history — 5,812 at last count — but also a 40 percent increase in returning students seeking residence-hall spots.
“It was a perfect storm of enrollment,” says Frankie Minor, director of the Department of Residential Life. “No one saw this coming.”
The staff prepped fast for fall by procuring space for about 700 students, including 400 freshmen, at nearby Campus View and Campus Lodge. Dubbed Tiger Diggs and Mizzou Quads, both clusters of fully furnished, university-supervised apartments are staffed with hall coordinators and community advisers and are set up with tutoring, study groups and other student services.
They’re also packed with amenities so appealing that some students already assigned to rooms on campus switched their reservations to extended campus.
Bobb was one of them. She used Mizzou’s new online housing-selection system to move from the newly renovated Schurz Hall, where she originally was assigned, to Tiger Diggs, where she can do laundry in her own apartment and swim in the pool outside. The cost is the same.
“It’s too good of a deal,” says Bobb, a journalism major from Blue Springs, Mo. “I don’t care about it being off campus at all. I have a lot of friends here and on campus, and I won’t miss out on anything.”
Extended-campus students stay linked to Mizzou constantly. Shuttle buses run between the apartments and the main campus every half hour up to 18 hours a day, and the university worked with the city’s Get About Columbia program to map out bike routes as well.
More important than location in student success, Minor says, is a personal connection. In extended-campus housing, community advisers, like traditional resident advisers, live on site, sharing apartments with other students and serving as round-the-clock guides.
“They’re checking in with you on a regular basis, asking how you’re doing, planning activities so you can get to know people,” Minor says of the staff. “If you have a crisis in the middle of the night, we’ve got staff on call.”
For students like Bobb, the backup comes as a relief.
“I’m really nervous,” Bobb admits on move-in day. “It’s my first time living on my own. My mom has been keeping me on track all through high school, reminding me of appointments.”
Already, though, Bobb has a support network. Before coming to Mizzou, she got to know her three apartment-mates through e-mail and Facebook, making move-in day more a reunion than an introduction.
Sign of the times
So, are students in the new millennium challenging common notions of residential life? Do privacy and luxuries define the new model for university housing?
Maybe. Minor says sharing space is a concept unfamiliar to millennials. About 95 percent of incoming Mizzou students never have shared bedrooms before, he says, and nearly 65 percent of them grew up with private bathrooms. Students’ expectations have changed.
“We still believe the close proximity of traditional residence hall housing is better for maturation, interpersonal growth and development, and there’s a lot of research to support that,” Minor says. “But we’re in an era now where students are used to having choices and being able to exercise those choices. They’re very savvy consumers.”
Bobb’s mother, Ann Van Horn, says she feels good about her daughter’s choice. “She’s independent,” Van Horn says, while stocking Bobb’s kitchen with macaroni and cheese on move-in day. Most important, Van Horn says, she’s excited about her daughter’s future and, beyond housing, the options Mizzou offers. “I want her to experience anything and everything.”