Residence Hall Characteristics and Psychosocial

January 9, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Math, Statistics And Probability, Statistics
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Psychosocial Engagement in Vanderbilt Residence Halls Morrie Swerlick Chris Tarnacki April 12, 2012

Background Information •

3 Broad Types of Housing at Vanderbilt •

Martha Rivers Ingram Commons

Upperclassmen Residence Halls

Living Learning Communities

Residential Life at Vanderbilt •

“All unmarried undergraduate students, except those who live with their parents or legal guardians in Davidson County, must live in residence halls on campus during the academic year, May session, and summer sessions. Authorization to live elsewhere is granted at the discretion of the Director of Housing Assignments in special situations or when space is unavailable on campus.” (Office of Housing and Residential Education Website)

93% of undergraduates live on campus

Tinto’s Interactionist Model of Student Persistence

Social Integration

Subsequent Institutional Commitment (IC2)


Tinto, 1975

Tinto’s Interactionist Model of Student Persistence Testable Propositions The greater the degree of social integration, the greater the level of subsequent commitment to the institution.

The greater the level of subsequent commitment to the institution, the greater the likelihood of student persistence in college.

Braxton, Sullivan, and Johnson, 1997

Influences on Social Integration in Residential Colleges and Universities 

Commitment of the Institution to Student Welfare

Communal Potential

Institutional Integrity

Proactive Social Adjustment

Psychosocial Engagement

Ability to Pay

Bolded influences explain 41% of the variance in social integration and were shown to be statistically significant.

Braxton, Hirschy, and McLendon, 2004 Braxton, Doyle, Jones, et al, Forthcoming

Psychosocial Engagement  “Making new friends and getting involved in the social life

of a college or university require both time and a considerable investment of psychological energy.”  “The investment of psychological energy in interactions

with peers and participation in extracurricular activities provide students with the social experiences they need to make judgments about their level of social integration.”  “The greater the level of psychological energy a student invests in

various social interactions at his or her college or university, the greater the student’s degree of social integration.” Braxton, Hirschy, and McClendon, 2004

Do differences in the characteristics of residence halls at Vanderbilt have a significant impact on psychosocial engagement?

Quality of Life Survey  Administered annually to Vanderbilt undergraduates

across all classes.  Measures many aspects of student life at Vanderbilt

including alcohol and drug use, study habits, religion, and social behaviors.  Also includes select demographic data.  We used existing data from the Quality of Life survey

from the Fall of 2011.

Differences Between Commons and Upperclass Halls Characteristic

Upperclass Residence Halls

Students are more or less randomly assigned roommates and residence halls


Students can select their own roommates and rooms.

All First Year Students


Sophomores through Seniors





Student’s Greek Affiliation


Almost none

Existing Social Relationships



Development of Index 

Questions were asked on the Quality of Life survey.

6 items of the Index (1-5; 1 strongly disagree, 5 strongly agree) 

How many programs sponsored by your residence hall have you attended this past semester? 

1. None, 2. 1 program, 3. 2 programs, 4. 3 or more

I am satisfied with the quality of life on my floor.

I am satisfied with my social experience at Vanderbilt.

There are sufficient programs (activities) that interest me on campus.

I know most of the people on my floor.

I have developed a close working relationship with at least one faculty member at Vanderbilt.

Used Z-Scores to standardize responses on the different scales

Composite score was calculated by adding the z-scores and a constant of 10.

Descriptive Statistics Factor Percent Vanderbilt Male 39.50% 49.60% Female 61% 50.40% White 68% 72.90% Non-White 32% 27.10% Above $100K 58.80% N/A Below $100K 41.20% N/A

Descriptive Statistics Comparison: Commons and Upperclass Respondants

How many programs sponsored by your residence hall have you attended this past semester?

N Mean Std. Deviation Upperclass Commons Upperclass Commons Upperclass Commons 379 249 3.45 1.86 .866 .996

I am satisfied with the quality of life on my floor.







I am satisfied with my social experience at Vanderbilt.







There are sufficient programs (activities) that interest me on campus.







I know most of the people on my floor.







I have developed a close working relationship with at least one faculty member at Vanderbilt.







Descriptive Statistics Variable Composite

N Mean Std. Deviation Commons Upperclass Commons Upperclass Commons Upperclass 379 249 60.7852 58.7335 3.48296 3.44847








RA Ratio







Composite- Sum of standardized scores from 6 items plus 10 Occupancy- Average number of students in halls. Based on numbers from 10th day occupancy report Fall 2011 RA Ratio- Ratio of Resident Advisors to residents. Based on 10th day occupancy report and numbers from RA Roster Fall 2011.

Group Comparisons Independent Samples Test: Commons vs Upperclass Levene's Test for Equality of Variances

F Composite

Equal variances assumed

Sig. .409


Equal variances not assumed Occupancy

Equal variances assumed



Equal variances not assumed RA Ratio

Equal variances assumed Equal variances not assumed



t-test for Equality of Means

t Sig. (2-tailed) Mean Difference -7.249 .000 -2.05168

Std. Error Difference .28301





















Regression Models 

Recoded Variables 

Commons Variable (Commons=1, All other halls=0)

Race/Ethnicity (White=1, All other responses=0)

Gender (Male=1, Female=0)

Family Income

$100,000 and above =1

Below $100,000 =0

RA Ratio and Occupancy were recoded into High, Medium, and Low based on percentiles. 

Occupancy 

Below 167.0 residents recoded as “low.”

167.00 to 285.00 recoded as “medium.”

Above 285.00 recoded as “high.”

RA Ratio 

Below 33.67 Students per RA recoded as “low”

33.67 to 45.25 recoded as “medium”

Above 45.25 recoded as “high”

Regression Models R .318 Variables (Constant) Male White Above $100,000 Medium Occupancy High Occupancy High RA Ratio Medium RA Ratio


R Square .101

Adjusted R Square .091

Unstandardized Coefficients B Std. Error 60.086 .376 .163 .282 1.180 .302 -.072 .284 .872 .344 -.532 .384 -2.039 .357 -1.289 .359

t 159.812 .579 3.904 -.253 2.531 -1.384 -5.715 -3.587

Sig. .000 .563 .000 .800 .012 .167 .000 .000

Regression Models R .323 Variables (Constant) Male White Above $100,000 Commons


R Square .104

Adjusted R Square .098

Unstandardized Coefficients B Std. Error 60.086 .376 .187 .281 1.258 .300 -.137 .283 2.134


t 159.812 .667 4.191 -.483

Sig. .000 .505 .000 .629



Summary of Findings 

Students in the Commons scored higher on the psychosocial engagement index than students in upperclass residence halls.

These halls also had, on average, a lower Student-RA ratio and were smaller.

Controlling for race, gender, and income: 

Excluding the Commons variable, having more students per RA lead to a statistically significant lower score on the psychosocial engagement index.

Having a hall with a medium capacity had a statistically significant positive effect on psychosocial engagement versus a hall with low occupancy.

Living in the Commons had a statistically significant positive influence on psychosocial engagement.

Threats to External Validity  It would be difficult to generalize the findings of this

study beyond Vanderbilt.  The high rate of students who live on campus.  The high retention rate of the school.  The fundamental differences in housing for first year

students and for upperclassmen  A very active Greek system

Threats to Internal Validity  Low R2 suggests that both of our models account for

very little of the variance of psychosocial engagement.  While the Commons model is good for psychosocial

engagement, students change.  A more conclusive study would require students of all

class years to be mixed in residence halls. Some that use the Commons model and some that don’t.

Final Thoughts 

The Commons appears works… but is it necessarily better than the upperclass hall model? We can’t really say. 

One of the main goals of the Commons is encouraging healthy social relationships among first year students.  “First-year students live and learn together in the 10 Houses of The Ingram

Commons – each guided by a Faculty Head of House, a professor and mentor who lives among the students of the house. Together they create the first of four transformative years at Vanderbilt where students are encouraged to develop and contribute their intellectual, social, ethical and personal talents to the fullest. “ (Commons website)

The effect on first year students should not be extrapolated onto upperclassmen

Some of the aspects of the Commons, smaller residence halls and lower student-to-RA ratios also encourage psychosocial engagement among all students.

References Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Reveiew of Educational Research, 45 Braxton, J.M., Sullivan, A.S., and Johnson, R. (1997). Appraising Tinto’s theory of college student departure. In J. Smart (Ed.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (Vol. 12, pp. 107-164). New York: Agathon. Braxton, J.M., Hirschy, A.S., and McClendon, S.A. (2004). Understanding and Reducing College Student Departure. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report (Vol. 30, No. 3) Braxton, J.M., Doyle, W.R., Jones, W.A, et al (forthcoming). Rethinking College Student Retention: Preliminary Findings Housing and Residential Education (2012). About our residence halls. (20120, April 4). Retrieved from

Special Thanks Dr. John Braxton, Professor of Education, Peabody College-Vanderbilt University Dr. Pat Helland, Associate Dean, Office of the Dean of Students

Mary Hutchens, Ph.D. candidate, Peabody CollegeVanderbilt University Jason Jakubowski, Director of Housing Assignments, Office of Housing and Residential Education

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