Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The second senior class: New opportunities for colleges

Known at one time as Austin Hall, this former student residence at Ohio Wesleyan University has been converted into a living and intergenerational learning community for alumni, professors, friends of the university, and select Ohio Wesleyan students. Residents enjoy full use of the college's athletic and library facilities, can attend campus cultural and sporting events, and have the opportunity to audit college courses. Courtesy photo

By John L. Gann Jr.

To entice students, universities commonly boast of offering the “biggest,” the “oldest” or some comparable superlative.

Perhaps the campuses that most stand out, though, are those that can claim the ultimate adjective — the “only” — and maintain it for a long time.

Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, 20 miles north of Columbus, may not immediately come to mind in the superlatives department. But the 1,850-student campus became an “only” more than 20 years ago. Favorable national publicity notwithstanding, it remains one today. OWU runs the only college-affiliated mixed student/faculty/retiree housing facility in the United States. There may be a lesson here for other colleges.

Austin Manor, once a 150-room student residence slated for demolition, is now a four-story, 60-unit age-integrated apartment building home to about equal numbers of students, senior citizen alumni and working professionals plus a dozen faculty.

The mix is intentional — 20 units are reserved for students — and no age group is allowed to resegregate the building. Both student and non-student names appear on long waiting lists to get in.

Of course, private apartment buildings near many campuses nationwide unintentionally house both students and non-students, but usually the only experience the two groups share is writing the rent check every month. And age-restricted retirement developments are found near a number of campuses that have varying levels of attachment to the schools but no student residents.

Austin Manor is, however, a category by itself. It makes unmatriculated residents, who pay $500 to $1,400 monthly for their living units, in effect into honorary students living right on campus. They can daily associate with undergraduates, audit classes, attend theatrical and athletic events, and use campus swimming, exercise and dining facilities — all within walking distance.

Accidental innovation

Counterintuitively for an academic setting, Austin Manor is the product not of research or planning but of imaginative response to a happy accident.

In 1988, with his official residence not yet ready, incoming president David Warren moved temporarily into a campus dormitory. Studying at Yale, Warren had lived in an apartment building that was home to both students and older non-students. Impressed with both experiences, Warren reinvented a 1923 women’s dormitory as a permanent intergenerational residence.

Scholarly research affirms the benefits to elders of daily association with young people. Frequent contact with older adults who are neither faculty nor doting relatives likewise benefits students, since it is with such people that they will have to interact with successfully once out of school.

But despite this insight from the behavioral sciences, before OWU no college or university had made it apply to any campus housing. And none has since.

It’s not that it hasn’t been popular. Ruth Melvin, a 1932 graduate who lived in the building as a student and later as a retiree, contrasted retirement homes where “people go to die” with Austin Manor where “people come to live.”

For students, in the words of one living in Austin Manor, “there’s only so much information you can get from a class, but these people (older residents) have experienced life.”

Outside the box

In coming years it will be more incumbent than ever for colleges and universities to think outside the traditional academic box, as OWU has done, in putting its resources to productive use.

In many schools, student demand for campus lodging as well as other college services and amenities may well soften. High college costs and the growth of lower-cost distance learning programs that award both credits and degrees to students living anywhere are already starting to change the picture.

But college towns and university neighborhoods will still need people around — students, retirees, visitors  or working families — to support their economies. Retirement experiences in mixed-age settings are just one innovation colleges make possible that can help accomplish that.

Will we need to hope for more happy accidents like the origin of Austin Manor? Or can college and college town leaders find other ways to achieve innovative economic value? Those colleges and college towns are likely to do best that can make themselves into something special when a leafy four-year sanctuary for educating young people is no longer special enough.

— Austin Manor is among anecdotes about what colleges and college towns are doing, or could be doing, to strengthen and diversify their local economies included in John L. Gann’s book, “The Third Lifetime Place: A New Economic Opportunity for College Towns.” Reach him at citykid@uwalumni.com

Special to The Enterprise


Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy



City could work to lower water bills

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

UCD dairy department awaits new facilities

By Jason McAlister | From Page: A1 | Gallery

UCD cheese: a lost legacy

By Jason McAlister | From Page: A1

Up in flames

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

High court upholds Michigan affirmative action ban

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Woman struck by train near Davis

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

Author discusses memories of Appalachia at The Avid Reader

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Pets of the week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Fund drive aims to help Chilean fire victims

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Walk Saturday to benefit Patwin

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Beronio lawn signs available, campaign events planned

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Salon hosts cutathon to benefit Lake Tahoe

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Rotary Barbecue tickets available now

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

‘Call of the Wolf’ is an Earth Day celebration

By Lynne Nittler | From Page: A4

Peterson is a Woman of the Year

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

Q&A set with local Emmy-nominated screenwriter

By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A6

Election programming available through Davis Media Access

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7



Is it a bet?

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

Watching this marriage go

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

Prop. 8 was ‘pure bigotry’

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8, 7 Comments

Elect Beronio as Yolo judge

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8, 4 Comments

Right person at right time

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

Don’t let crisis nursery close

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

Thanks for kindness of strangers

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

Vote no on Measure O

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8, 5 Comments

Cutting the heart out of America

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

Pat Oliphant cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A8



Devils looking forward after softball loss at Elk Grove

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

New formation propels DHS to easy win

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Davis runners presence felt at Boston Marathon

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

Aggies win tournament title and Hansen takes first at El Macero

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Baseball roundup: Cats fall in rain-shortened contest

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B2

Little League roundup: Karagosian’s double wins it for Dodgers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery



Even with no flowers, Anza-Borrego’s desert inspires

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: C1 | Gallery

Keep children safe when traveling

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C2

10 recreation lakes that can survive a drought

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: C3

Willett running club invites community to ‘run with the owls’

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A10 | Gallery

What’s happening for youths

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10



Tony Fields tribute has new sound, same great style

By Krystal Lau | From Page: A11 | Gallery

Wine, Art and Music Festival returns to Winters

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

‘Sactown Tonight!’ on stage at B Street

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

DMTC to hold auditions for ‘Les Miserables’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Notorious Shank Brothers take over the Picnic

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery







Comics: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

Comics: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7