By Brandon Gillet
The opening of the new 45 Mann residence this fall shows that Housing Services is delivering on its blueprint to provide uOttawa housing for upper-year students.
A cornerstone of the University’s Housing Strategic Plan is to bolster capacity for upper-year students and build on the success of its living learning communities (LLCs) programming, which encourages learning opportunities outside the classroom including community involvement.
“Up until very recently, our main focus was the needs of our first-year students,” says the associate vice-president of Student Services, Michel Guilbeault. The opening of the Henderson and Rideau residences in recent years means that now every first-year student who requests a place in residence can get one.
With that job done, Housing Services, which is part of Student Services, then set its sights on its next project…addressing the housing needs of upper-year students. Extensive studies and surveys were conducted to assess the needs of these students and assess the financial viability of such a project.
“We were trying to determine whether there was any interest for returning students and, if so, what would be some important criteria for us to consider,” Guilbeault says. “They said they liked the idea of housing in close proximity to campus and of a university-run residence because the support network is there. However, they also said they want more independence and less of a hands-on role for us.”
As a result, two clusters of the Brooks residences and two floors of the Friel residence have also been allocated for returning students.
Guilbeault reminds us that residences provide students with more than just a roof over their heads. In fact, support networks are in place throughout the residences, with advisors to help students with their transition and four professional counsellors in the residences.
Living learning communities
Guilbeault refers to two main components of the Residence Strategic Plan—providing student housing with the right programming in the form of study groups and mentors or professional counsellors and developing LLCs.
LLCs are communities of interest, which can be academic or non-academic. Friel was the first residence to have an LLC, one that focuses on leadership and community engagement. The Friel LLC gives students a chance to become involved in their community and develop leadership skills.
This year will see two new LLCs, one in the Marchand residence involving the International Office offering a buddy system to pair up domestic and international students and another in the Henderson residence for students studying one of the STEM disciplines. The next stage is to implement LLCs in the upper-year residences.
“Upper-year student residences are a good fit for LLCs,” says Guilbeault. “In second and third year, the students’ focus is really on academics, so we’re looking at bringing in more faculty members and professional development opportunities.”
Looking to the future
Assessments are currently under way, with some big decisions to be made in the next couple of years. “We’ve got aging buildings, we’ve got a deferred maintenance challenge like most universities and we also have the need for further expansion,” says Guilbeault. “With 45 Mann, we’re now at about 4,400 beds. We think we can grow further—predominately in housing for the upper-year students.”
The Campus Master Plan divides the campus into seven precincts, four of which are considered key development areas—each with the potential for greater residence capacity. Despite how current plans may change as a result of private sector agreements and market trends, Housing Service’s main priority will always remain uOttawa students.
“We’re here for the students,” says Guilbeault. “It’s not about the buildings, it’s about what happens inside them.”