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Saturday, December 4, 2021

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Tenochca Hall recently underwent a renovation. Tenochca Hall recently underwent a renovation.

Small Steps to a Big Goal

Move-in day is the beginning of the path to graduation for SDSU students.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

“Living on campus creates a stronger affinity between students and their university. We know that higher residency rates equal higher graduation rates.”

Graduation was the last thing on Virginia Racelis’s mind as she carted her belongings to the second floor of Tenochca Hall. On that move-in day, the first-time freshman student felt slightly apprehensive about living in one of San Diego State University’s older residence halls—until she saw it. 

“I fell in love,” Racelis recalled. “It was so beautiful and clean and modern.”

Not far from Tenochca, staff in the offices of Housing Administration and Residential Education had worked hard to plan a seamless move-in for Racelis and her 4,225 new freshman classmates. They oversaw the 22-month renovation of Tenochca, which modernized common areas, student rooms and restrooms; added a smart class/study room; refreshed the outdoor pool area; and added a sand volleyball court and a putting green on the premises. 

Throughout the renovation, the graduation of Racelis and her peers was foremost in their minds. 

The connection between a great campus living experience and student success may not be apparent, but it is strong. Data show that graduation rates improve by more than 10 percent when students live on campus—especially in freshman and sophomore years—because they are more inclined to get involved in the cornucopia of leadership and learning activities that college life offers.

“The best universities make residential space a priority and provide amenities for memorable campus living experiences,” said Eric Hansen, director of Housing Administration. “Living on campus creates a stronger affinity between students and their university. We know that higher residency rates equal higher graduation rates.”

Leveraging that knowledge, SDSU created Sophomore QUEST as part of the Sophomore Success program. It combines support and independence so that sophomores living in campus housing have access to academic advising; financial literacy and healthy eating workshops; and one-to-one and group sessions with peer and professional mentors who help students develop a clearer vision of their academic and career plans.

At the same time, SDSU has invested in the success of local students. A Commuter Resource Center, purposefully housed in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union where student organizations meet, offers peer mentoring, leadership training and service learning opportunities. 

Having renovated Tenochca and Zura Halls, SDSU is currently sprucing up Maya and Olmeca Halls. Next year, the university will add a brand new 800-bed residence hall exclusively for freshmen on the west side of campus, near Chapultepec Residence Hall. 

Meanwhile, Racelis has joined the Tenochca Hall Council in an effort to meet others who live there and have a say in planning events for the residents. 

“I’m so grateful that I was accepted and chose to come to SDSU,” she said.