Posted May 15, 2015 by Elizabeth Beltramini 

Third Chair from the Left

Editor's Letter from the May/June 2015 issue of The Bulletin

My husband is a high school teacher and doesn’t require assigned seats in his classroom. However, early each semester, students choose a desk, and rarely do they vary from that specific selection. Day after day, they return to the same row, same chair, near the same people. Even his newspaper and yearbook students tend to maintain the same spot on the couch, at the table, or on the rug during meetings. This phenomenon also occurs among adults, as we see ACUI seminar and workshop attendees gravitating toward the same seat each day. It typically takes some sort of intentional activity to break the pattern.

May/June Bulletin coverPeople strive to consistently prompt a desired outcome—in this case, comfort. This behavior is one aspect of place making, a familiar concept in union and activities work as professionals strive to foster students’ sense of place in the college union. In the past few years, a wave of research has examined place making and other factors necessary for community to develop in a physical space such as the college union. This edition of The Bulletin provides a sample of such recent investigations.

Lacey Solheid introduces existing literature and theories related to environmental psychology. A foundational understanding of Carney Strange’s and Jim Banning’s campus ecology theory and Ray Oldenburg’s idea of “the third place” offers insights upon which the additional articles in this Bulletin build. The other two articles are based on doctoral research conducted by Scott Tierno and Zane Reif. In fact, Reif won ACUI’s Research and Education Grant for his photo analysis and interviews with transfer students related to one university’s preplanning for a union construction project. Tierno also included construction as an aspect of his study, aiming to define ways in which the college union can contribute to institutions’ retention goals. After a drought of research on the college union, it is encouraging and important to share the work conducted to grow our body of knowledge on college union efficacy.

Research is a strategic area of focus for the Association, as noted in the strategic plan update. During the annual conference, research was highlighted in general sessions, educational sessions, volunteer meetings, poster sessions, and more. Each Bulletin’s Kiosk section includes a brief summary of a recent study in the Research Corner and relevant data in the Stats feature. And evaluation methods have been used to inform ACUI’s work on the regional restructuring.

It is essential that union and activities professionals stay up to date with the latest research in the field. We also hope more practitioners and faculty will pursue opportunities to conduct studies related to ACUI’s research agenda and on college unions in general. For more information or to get involved, please feel free to contact me so I may connect you with the appropriate individuals.

In the meantime, I’m off to a meeting, where I’ll likely sit in the third chair from the left.

Elizabeth Beltramini

Elizabeth Beltramini is the Director of Content Curation at ACUI.


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