College life, a dramatic change from past years
Students at Harvard complained earlier this year when the school eliminated hot breakfasts in upperclassmen’s dormitories. College life is not what it once was.
Today’s Washington University students enjoy memory foam mattresses in some dorms on the South 40 and eat fresh sushi for lunch at the Danforth University Center.
College life has changed markedly in the past few decades, according to Associate Dean of Students Jill Stratton, who has been at the University for 17 years.
Stratton said that for a long time, the University and other colleges focused many of their resources on graduate-level programs. This changed in the early 1990s, when the University and other schools began concentrating more on the undergraduate experience.
“A few places like Stanford and Washington University realized the heart and soul of our university are the undergraduates,” Stratton said.
Stratton, who teaches The Psychology of Young Adulthood at the University, said she believes that the quality of life enjoyed by students is essential to their success at the University. In her course, she discusses research that she said demonstrates a strong correlation between the happiness and fulfillment of students and their levels of academic success.
Sophomore Laura Zaim, who gives tours as part of the Student Activities Committee (SAC), said students today have a much different experience from their parents.
“[Today’s experience] has absolutely nothing to do with the college experience that our parents went through,” Zaim said. “I know when I give tours…parents are always remarking on…how there’s so much here that they didn’t have [and] can’t really imagine that they can [have here].”
Zaim said a large part of why the University offers some of its amenities to undergraduate students is today’s consumer culture.
“I think it’s become kind of like a consumer culture in that all these services are provided to us because we’re willing to pay for them. And [it helps] colleges to remain competitive,” Zaim said.
Stratton also emphasized the competitive edge offered by the University’s high quality of life.
“A lot of college campuses are paying more attention to the quality of life and students’ lives outside the classroom,” Stratton said. “But I think it’s one of our draws. I think we compare very well across the board.”
Stratton said she has noticed a number of changes to the residential facilities on campus over the years, including 14 new buildings.
“The whole landscape has completely changed,” Stratton said.
Associate Director of Residential Life Joshua Walehwa has worked at the University since July 2003. In this time, he said he has seen the quality of residential facilities increase.
“We’ve added additional faculty families. We’ve strengthened our student engagement approach…We’ve improved safety and security and comfort levels,” he said. “Overall, we’ve just continued to try to be out there in front of other schools in the country in terms of trying to have a great residential life program.”
Additionally, the purpose behind residential facilities has altered, according to Stratton.
“Back in the day, [residential facilities were] just the concrete cinderblocks,” Stratton said. “Now, it’s where we live and learn. It’s about the quality of our whole lives.”
Although Nadeem Siddiqui, resident district manager for Bon Appétit, is relatively new to the University, he said he has already seen dramatic changes in campus dining, including the construction of the new South 40 dining facility.
“Two years in a row, I will have the advantage of helping to redefine and adjust the dining program to help students have a better quality experience,” Siddiqui said.
The University hasn’t always had the high quality dining services that it currently has.
“We have all this healthy organic stuff that helps us live better lives, and back then it was like, ‘Here’s some cold pizza,’” sophomore Jessica Frank said.
Siddiqui said he believes changes in dining services are more recent.
“I think it has taken some years to refine [the campus dining situation]. I think the last several years it has been rated among the top living parts of the University,” Siddiqui said.
Siddiqui said he believes the University’s dining options are superior to those of comparable institutions, due in large part to the longer hours of service and the unique types of food provided. Siddiqui, who previously worked at Cornell and Stanford universities, claimed that when the South 40 facility is complete, the University’s dining system will be “one of the top programs in the nation.”
“We want a place that is comfortable and warm where students can come together with faculty and staff to learn,” he said. “Food is a magnet that brings people together.”