Manassas Journal Messenger | Life on Campus

Life on college campuses around the state of Virginia is more than just academic. “The truth is in today’s colleges and universities we have to market quality dining spaces, recreation spaces and a variety of housing facilities because students who are looking at campuses are looking for that and expect it,” said Sam Sadler, vice president for student affairs at The College of William and Mary.

For today’s college students, that means amenities that were never available “back-in-the-day” from laptop computers and iPods in the classroom, to luxury accommodations and gourmet foods. Here is a sampling of just a few things that are available.


OLD-SCHOOL: dorm hall telephones, handwritten class notes, library research, computers only in labs, audio labs for music and language, snail mail letters.

NEW-SCHOOL: cell phones, laptops, blogs, wireless Internet, iPods, Podcasts, text messaging, instant messaging, paperless classes.

You’d be hard pressed to find a college-age student today who does not have a cell phone. In fact many colleges are discontinuing some of their land line phone services because of lack of use. Two years ago the University of Mary Washington discontinued billed long-distance services on university telephone lines and this year it discontinued “phone mail” messaging service.

“Today’s students almost never use any of those services, and providing several of them proved to be a significant waste of money the university’s, and, of course, ultimately the student’s,” says Chip German, Mary Washington’s vice president for information technologies and chief information officer. “At present, there is still a telephone land line in every student room, but even usage of that basic service in those rooms has dwindled, replaced by cell phone use and Internet messaging.”

At American University in Washington, students in some classes take notes on a laptop computer while simultaneously making comments on blogs.

“American University is a wireless campus, so people live blog while they are in class, so they are doing internal monologuing,” says Professor Patrick Thaddeus Jackson in the School of International Service who uses blogs in most of his classes. “Blogs are a way to replace journaling exercises. I divide my classes into groups of three to five who go off and create their own blog and I post on my blog a link of where everyone is. Then there are small group conversations going on outside of class where they bounce off each other’s ideas.”

Jackson also posts Podcasts on his Web site for background information. “Instead of wasting class time they can download it and listen to it before they come to class and then we can have a more interesting discussion,” he says.

For student presentations he uses Podcasts enhanced with video. “So if I make a criticism of something that a student said in class, they are not dealing with memory but can go to the Podcast and actually hear and see what I mean,” he says. Jackson has also made his classes paperless. Students e-mail assignments directly to him and he makes comments and e-mails them back. “This has eliminated them trying to read my handwriting.”

This fall music majors at Radford University are required to purchase iPods as a classroom tool. Music professor David Zuschin has students download play lists for classroom assignments, videos, RU music performances, professors’ notes, PowerPoint presentations and lectures. He says the iPod has transformed the way students see and understand music, allowing them to make the connection between lecture material and actual musical excerpts. “It is one thing to understand the concept of decorative chromaticism, for instance, but quite another to hear it in a Chopin nocturne,” says Zuschin.

At Virginia Intermont College, students have wireless access in many areas of campus. The college has recently launched a new student learning management system where faculty perform many online functions such as posting grades, posting assignments, readings, tests, etc., advising students, and forming discussion groups, said Lisa Mitchell of the VIC marketing department. Although the college still provides land lines in dorms, most students use cell phones.


OLD-SCHOOL: tiny dorm rooms with bunk beds, community bathrooms, washers and dryers in another building, a shared television room for each dorm, popcorn poppers and mini-refrigerators.

NEW-SCHOOL: suites with double bed/single person rooms, living rooms, kitchens, multiple baths, microwaves, televisions, refrigerators, cable television and Xbox.

Forget living with just the bare necessities in college dorms. Today’s dorm rooms are not only packed full of small appliances, video game equipment and televisions but they offer spacious accommodations.

Longwood University just opened a new $20 million on-campus housing and retail space this fall for 408 junior and senior students. Longwood Landings at Midtown Square is four, four-story buildings with 96 four-bedroom and 24 single-bedroom apartments on the top three floors and retail space on the first level.

“The rooms are arranged two different ways,” explains Gina Caldwell, Longwood University media relations specialist. “One is a corner single like a studio apartment with its own kitchen, huge living area and its own washer and dryer. The other is for four people where each person has their own bedroom.”

The Landings’ four-bedroom units have furnished central living rooms, dinette sets, kitchens with a dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator and washer/dryer. There are two full bathrooms, two extra sinks and extra mini-refrigerators. Each room has a double bed.

For the first time in 17 years, The College of William & Mary has opened a new dorm on campus. Jamestown Residences, north and south is two connected three-story buildings with 388 beds.

“It is really spectacular,” says Sam Sadler, vice president for student affairs. The interior design was based on input from students. “They wanted a nice mixture of single and double rooms and configured so there was the opportunity to keep a large group of students together. There are 15 to 20 spaces carved out so about a dozen students can live together on a short hallway. Each has a separate entrance as well as an entrance off the main hall. About a third are singles and the rest are doubles. Some have suite baths, some hall baths. Each room is individually climate-controlled and has both wireless and hard-wired access.”

Every wing has a lounge and kitchen and each hall has a study room. There is a room students can reserve to work on projectsand two sound-proof music practice rooms, one with a grand piano. Another room has a pool table and foosball.

At the University of Mary Washington, technology allows students to monitor the status of the washers and dryers in their building with eSUDS, without having to lug their laundry downstairs to find that all the machines are taken.


OLD-SCHOOL: cafeteria dining with set menus and set meal hours of operation.

NEW-SCHOOL: made-to-order gourmet and ethnic foods, continuous service and chain fast foods like Chick-fil-A, Freshens Yogurt & Ice Cream, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Starbucks Coffee and more.

Food is such an important part of college life today that the Princeton Review’s Best Colleges publication has a “great campus food” category. Based on student surveys for 2007 Virginia Tech ranked number two and James Madison University ranked seventh.

Tech’s award-winning dining centers include all-you-care-to-eat facilities, a la carte food courts, a gourmet coffee and ice cream shop, and grab-and-go food shops, according to Kelly Shayne Young, public relations specialist in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. “Students can get food great food on campus from 7 a.m. to midnight,” she noted.

At JMU, students have many dining options, some with food courts, such as Top Dog Café (Mongolian grill), PC Dukes (Tidewater seafood), Festival Food Court (crepes, sushi), D-Hall with Café Roma, Madison Grill, Java City and Let’s Go, among others.

Many schools have adopted the new concept of made-to-order foods at different themed stations like Hampden-Sydney College’s “The Fresh Food Company Market” by ARAMARK. The school describes it as “more like an upscale food court in a mall in that everything is cooked to order in front of you.”

Hampden-Sydney offers a Mongolian grill, brick oven pizza, pasta station, a genuine charbroil rotisserie and a bake shop where everything is baked daily. In the morning you can get made-to-order omelets, Belgian waffles or eggs. A weekly menu runs for a couple weeks and then rotates. Dining is continuous from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Many other schools have a variety of food options.

Sushi: Radford University recently opened Southern Tsunami Sushi in the food court of RU’s Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center.

Food on the run: Emory & Henry College’s Café Ala Cart features food stands around campus that offer items for students rushing between classes. The college also has turned an old brick store into Addison’s Restaurant where fresh desserts and a varied menu can be consumed under a gazebo-covered dining area, or in a study area with sofas and a fireplace with a wireless Internet environment.

Coffee stop: Lynchburg College students can now dine at Stingers, a coffee shop that offers pizza and subs in one of the student town houses from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Students can also choose the college-run cafeteria or a sandwich shop.

Favorite Recipes: Randolph-Macon College’s Chartwells dining service provides “Recipes from Home” where parents and students can submit favorite recipes that Chartwells will use when planning meals for the dining hall.

Student-made food: Eastern Mennonite University’s coffee house, “Common Grounds” is run and operated by the business club, and students living in the international Martin House generally share responsibilities for preparing a common evening meal.


To keep up with the trend many universities are also renovating, expanding and building new dining facilities.

Averett University’s new 36,000-square-foot student center features a dining hall and new food service company, Bon Appetit, that specializes in food cooked from scratch, vegetarian dishes and homemade soups. They have also extended dining hours.

Hampton University recently announced an upgrade to its dining with the addition of a new three-story 100,000-square-foot facility that will house two dining halls – one for students and another for special university dining and entertainment events.

University of Richmond’s Heilman Dining Center just reopened after a $9.9 million renovation and now offers many new cuisines and more comfortable, brighter seating.

Sadler says that providing the newest and best for students has become a competition among colleges and universities who want to attract students with the best college life possible.

“Whether it is in residence halls or dining facilities, they all contribute to a sense of community and belonging,” says Sadler. “It is all about trying to build environments for students to maximize their opportunity to succeed.”


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