Virtual Research Institute

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Core Competencies: Communications, Student Learning
Originally presented on November 30, 2016
This is the archived version.

Program Description

In 2016, the ACUI Research Program Team coordinated this daylong celebration of research on the college union.

Designing for Learning: A Conversation about the College Union

Carney Strange discusses how principles of environmental psychology apply to the college union. This presentation is followed by a discussion of current research in this area.

About the Presenter

Carney Strange, Ph.D., retired in 2013 after serving for 35 as a higher education and student affairs professor at Bowling Green State University. Strange has written extensively about the impact of educational environments on student learning. This session will relate the college union to content from his latest book, Designing for Learning: Creating Campus Environments for Student Success, co-authored with James Banning. Strange and Banning's theory of campus ecology is among the seminal research related to the college union.  

About the Researchers

Leah Barrett, Ed.D., is vice president of student affairs for Northern Wyoming Community College District and the current research coordinator. Her dissertation research used a quantitative approach using a secondary data set from a satisfaction survey with more than 15,000 participants. Using correlation and regression analyses, satisfaction with the college union was found to be the strongest predictor of student satisfaction with a sense of community on campus.

Kim D. Harrington, Ph.D., is associate vice president and chief human resources officer for Georgia Institute of Technology. She is a past president of ACUI and her dissertation focused on the influence of physical space on student involvement and community She used a qualitative ethnographic study including photo elicitation and semi-structured interviews, and her findings showed the built environment's role in how students discover, build, and sustain community.   

Dan Maxwell, Ed.D., is associate vice chancellor for student affairs for the University of Houston system, member of the Research Program Team, and a past president of ACUI. His dissertation research examined two spaces in a college union and used semi-structured interviews to determine how purposeful planning of physical space affects social and intellectual interactions among users of the space.

Corbin Smyth, Ed.D., is associate vice chancellor for student life at the University of Minnesota–Duluth and a previous research coordinator for ACUI. His dissertation research used a qualitative case study approach to determine key elements of community-centered college union facilities. These five elements were: 1) Student-centered, 2)  Dynamic spaces, 3) Pathways to success, 4) College is a conversation, and 5) House of serendipity. 

About the Moderator

Amy Wilson, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of higher education administration at Buffalo State University. She currently serves on the Research Program Team and her research interests include multicultural competence and leadership development. 

Pursuing Your Doctorate: Considerations for College Union Practitioners

The decision to pursue an advanced degree is not an easy one. Hear from current and recent doctoral students about how they balanced this pursuit with other commitments, chose a program, and identified research interests.

About the Panelists

Justin Camputaro is director of the Husky Union Building at the University of Washington and is pursuing his Ph.D. in higher education administration from Virginia Tech.
Meaghan Davidson is assistant director of university student centers at the University of Delaware, where she is also pursuing an Ed.D. in educational leadership and administration.  
Kim Haines is director of the student union and activities at The College at Brockport and is pursuing her doctorate through Northeastern University.
Joseph Hayes earned his Ed.D. in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri in 2015 after beginning coursework in 2009. He has served as director of the Campus Center at Indiana University-Purdue University–Indianapolis since 2012.

About the Moderator

Katie Beaulieu is a full-time doctoral student at Texas Christian University and member of the Research Program Team. Previously she served as assistant director of the Ohio Union and The Ohio State University. 

Virtual Poster Sessions on College Unions and Student Activities 

Learn about current research being conducted in the field through a series of segments showcasing the work of students, faculty, and practitioners.

  • The College Union and a Sense of Community: A Quantitative Study
  • Redefining Student Affairs through Digital Technology: A 10-Year Historiography of Digital Technology Use by Student Affairs Administrators
  • Student Union Transformation: A Case Study on Creating Purposeful Space
  • Telling Our Story: College Union History Examined Through Naming and Construction
  • Building Community through Physical Space: A Visual Representation of College Union Utilization by Community College Transfer Students
  • More than a Paycheck: Exploring the On-Campus Student Employment Experience
  • Learn about current research being conducted in the field through a series of segments showcasing the work of students, faculty, and practitioners.


Updated March 5, 2017