A new student housing initiative at The University of Southern Mississippi is taking the nursing education experience beyond the classroom walls this semester.
For the first time, a group of students from the School of Nursing (SON) are residing together under the same roof in campus housing designed to foster a living-learning community environment.
School of Nursing Director Dr. Katherine Nugent said the new venture not only serves as an ideal recruiting tool but also offers certain benefits that go beyond the customary nursing school environment.
“We are very excited to be able to have this house in the village dedicated to nursing students,” said Nugent. “This opportunity to implement a living-learning community will support professional development, collegiality among students, peer mentoring and opportunities for outside of the classroom interaction between students, faculty and other professionals.”
In addition to the regular curriculum, related opportunities for SON house residents include programs to enhance study skills and National Council Licensure Examination preparation, self-defense classes, career mentoring, volunteer opportunities, scholarly presentations, forums and discussions.
Formerly the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority house, the new SON house is part of The Village, the university’s housing complex for sorority members and upper-class scholarship recipients.
Senior Renea Berry, one of 18 students living in the SON house, jumped at the chance to upgrade her residence status after hearing about the new arrangement.
“I’ve been living on campus since my freshman year in dorms and this gave me an opportunity to live in nicer housing with my fellow nursing students,” said Berry, a Hattiesburg native. “I would definitely recommend this to other students who have the same opportunity at some point. My own opinion is that it is great advertising for the School of Nursing and the university.”
Dr. Chris Crenshaw, director of Residence Life at Southern Miss, said the idea for the SON house sprang from a similar experiment undertaken by the College of Business which opened its new living-learning Honors House this fall.
“When the sorority disbanded, our staff got together and discussed what we could do that would be creative in that environment,” said Crenshaw. “And everyone agreed that nursing probably had the best potential to really make this a successful venture.”
“It’s a great partnership and as opportunities arise for us we will explore similar ventures with other academic areas I’m sure.”
For this initial phase, the only requirements for occupancy were that residents had to be nursing school students in proper academic standing. Little renovation was needed on the house which features a large common room and kitchen. The rooms are double-occupancy with a private bath.
Research has shown that students taking advantage of living-learning communities perform better in school, have a smoother transition to college, interact more successfully with others and experience more social support.
Dr. Elizabeth Harrison, interim associate director of undergraduate programs in the Southern Miss School of Nursing, said the SON house not only enhances the learning environment for students but also better prepares them for post-graduate studies.
“The students we talked to like the idea of having a nice, quiet place to study and the convenience of walking to class,” said Harrison. “Plus the national trend in these living/learning communities is that students tend to perform better academically and consequently will be more inclined to seek advanced degrees.”
Berry serves as the liaison between the house members and an advisory committee which consists of Harrison, Nugent, assistant professor Lachel Story, associate professor Kathleen Masters, associate professor Rowena Elliott and Coordinator of Student Services Cynthia Sheffield.
“I give them updates on what the girls might need and report any problems or concerns we might have at the house,” said Berry. “But so far it’s been great. Most of us knew each other already from having been in the program, so that also helps.”
For more information about the School of Nursing at Southern Miss call 601-266-5445 or visit the SON living-learning house on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/USM-School-of-Nursing-SON-Living-Learning-Community/115653064916
University of Southern Mississippi senior nursing students Brittany Patton, foreground, and Renae Berry are part of the first group to reside in the School of Nursing’s new living-learning community on the Hattiesburg campus. (Office of University Communications Photo by Stephen Rouse)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.