Denison’s residential campus gives students the 24/7 living/learning experience integral to liberal arts education. It makes sense that new buildings, initiatives, and environments with a student focus should have student input. The RED (Research, Engagement & Design) Corps Fellows talk with student focus groups and gather critical data that impact the entire process — from assessing a need to design and implementation.

RED Corps is simultaneously Denison’s anchor ‘consulting experience’ and our development lab for the experiences that will best serve students in their futures. RED Corps’ reach extends across campus culture and systems: wellness, recycling, conduct, social life, campus communications, orientations, a residential housing master plan, campus parking, the first-year experience, and more.

These are challenging projects requiring professional development. Students participate in multiple semesters of RED Corps impacting campus issues and emerge with amazing career-ready skills.

“In the time that we spent working on this project and collecting data, our group learned valuable lessons on the importance of mental health on Denison’s campus and how invested students are in making positive changes to the system in place.”

Three projects illustrate the impact of this work.

Housing master plan

When Denison began a master planning process for housing in 2017, RED Corps was engaged to research the effect of students’ first-year housing on their relationships and experiences. The team sent surveys and talked to students, compiled and presented the results. One of their findings: First-year community-building works best in larger residence halls with substantial common rooms.

A new wellness center

As Denison prepared to build a new wellness center, RED Corps fellows were recruited to gain student input on design including what aesthetics inspired wellness and comfort, and what amenities helped relieve stress and improve wellbeing. RED Corps research found preferences for natural lighting, big windows, greenery, and flexible space. These and other student-focused attributes are being incorporated into the Hoaglin Wellness Center that opened in Fall 2022.

Increasing social spaces

Social life isn’t one-size-fits-all on a college campus. As Denison considered building new spaces to give students more social life flexibility, the RED Corps fellows looked at spaces and needs of first-year students to seniors. Their findings included the desire for multiple social spaces, a campus bar with food, and plenty of comfy seating. This led to reimagining of how we used Moon Hall, a series of four loft-like spaces with movable partitions and an outdoor patio, and the design of Slivy’s, a campus bar/hangout on the senior quad, and even how we utilize residence hall common rooms to foster community.