Connecting the PillarsHousing & Residence Life

Connecting the Pillars: Learning Where You Live

As #RyersonSA gears up for its annual Fall Summit meeting, we’re taking a few moments to reflect on the 5 Pillars that are the values and principles we use to guide our work with and for students. Once a day until the Summit, one of the directors will share how their department supports a pillar “outside” of their portfolio, because in the end, every department, unit, and person in RyersonSA embodies the essence of all 5 pillars.

Today, Ian Crookshank asks the Housing & Residence Life team how they contribute to the Learning pillar…


If you have ever lived in a residence hall it is likely that you have been exposed to education and student learning unlike any other place on campus. Whether you knew it at the time or not, you would have been exposed to opportunities to develop your competence in countless areas; from the complex, like self awareness and identity, to the seemingly simple, like doing laundry. (Not that laundry can’t be complex. I mean, there are the delicates, the hang dries, the hand washes, and the ever possible outcome of everything turning pink). Part of what makes residence such a rich learning environment is that the 24/7 nature creates fertile opportunities for education to meet life and development to occur. It is from this environment that I present to you, as described by the Housing and Residence Life staff team, 5 ways we contribute to the #RyersonSA pillar: Learning.

Community of Connection, Change, and Curiosity

I’ve often referred to Housing & Residence Life (and also more broadly Student Affairs) as the place for learning outside the classroom. Some of the most important learning that we do is in our day to day life: meeting new people, experiencing new ideas and ways of thinking, and challenging what we know and who we are as a person. How is Housing & Residence Life a part of this learning? We take an active role when needed—introducing new ideas, helping students make new connections, guiding the discussion as students explore—and we also give students space to absorb their new learning, allow time for them to make sense of it, and adopt it into themselves.

—Jenny Owens, Residence Assignments and Marketing Coordinator

Active and Intentional Programming and Partnerships

This may take the form of workshops and study groups facilitated by our Residence Advisors and Academic Links, or the students organizing initiatives themselves. Our Living Learning Communities and Residence Council also facilitate programs and initiatives that inform and raise awareness among our residence students regarding topics such as mental health, social justice, and entrepreneurship. We also have extensive training with our student staff, where we have had the chance to learn from professionals and peers, both within and beyond residence. And Housing & Residence Life has partnered on many programs, conferences, and learning opportunities that connect to Learning, such as #14DaysDry, Prof Who Made a Mark and the faculty speaker series, and the RU a Leader? conference.

—Dan Cantiller, Residence Life Facilitator

Community Living – Impact and Intent

Students living in residence are often exposed to how the impact of their decisions and choices can impact others at the individual or community level. In some situations students learn how regardless of their intent, it’s the impact on another which defines the outcome. In other situations they are challenged to think how they can individually affect change for their community. One thing that comes to mind is the recycling and keeping the students informed on how many trees and litres of water they are saving by recycling.

Debbie Lamch, Maintenance and Facilities Supervisor

Navigating Responsibility and Structures

There is definitely learning involved in the work we do in Housing & Residence Life, some obvious and others not so much. While students are applying and paying fees for residence, most people would consider these interactions as a transaction and little more, however, for many, if not most, of our students, applying for residence and paying for fees are new experiences. This is a great opportunity for us to help develop their learning around navigating their bank and/or university systems. Often this feels like we’re simply answering questions, but we’re also helping students learn to manage these systems for themselves as well.

—Jenny Owens

Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment

Residence provides a unique learning opportunity as students are forced to adapt to new living situations, life skills, academic changes, and a whole new city. We provide students the chance to learn and grow into the people they want to be in their academics and life. Residence is the place where students can move through those learning factors in a safe and supported environment.

—Val Bruce, Coordinator of Housing Operations and Administration

The environment we create is most conducive for learning about one’s self. The responsibilities of living on your own for the first time while beginning post secondary education is no easy feat. This challenge allows students to taste failure, or be tested on their morals and experiences that cultivate self-reflection. But without an environment of support, both from within residence and from the many outside links, students may not have the opportunity or be as willing to try and challenge themselves.

—Shaun Ono, Facilitator of Reception and Residence Service Desk

While not exhaustive, from this list it is evident that learning occurs in residence and that in many ways that learning is directly tied to the formation of community. By creating a space where students feel a sense of belonging, mutual influence, connection, and shared purpose, we encourage students to push beyond boundaries and learn from each other. To do this, it is crucial that we find a balance between challenge and support as that makes the difference in encouraging students to try something new, risk falling down, and empowering to rise back up.  So yes, in residence students learn tangible and necessary skills like doing laundry, however, they also learn so much more than that in an environment intentionally structured to support that learning.

LEGO Stormtrooper does the laundry, but forgot to remove one red sock (now he's pink).


Join us on Monday for the next article in the Connecting the Pillars series, Bringing the Personal to Work by Caroline Konrad.