Insights from a Resident Advisor

February 17, 2021

The Quad at University of Houston

Student housing is the heart of campus culture. However, design standards continue to grow more complex, and bunk beds and community bathrooms aren’t for everyone. Today’s students want housing that’s not only comfortable but creates a sense of community and offers home-like amenities. Fully outfitted kitchens, recreation rooms, collaboration spaces, and outdoor patios are now a must.

So, how do you create this home-away-from-home for students? The process begins with step-by-step collaboration with the client, supported by a dedicated team, and inspired by savvy insights from an up-and-coming teammate — Morgan Aven, former resident hall advisor turned architect.

Resident advisors play an integral role in the quality of resident life programs at most colleges and universities. From offering advice to breaking up late-night parties, the RA monitors the pulse of residential life, knowing what works and doesn’t for students.

Morgan’s father, a professor, practically raised her in the classroom. After deciding to attend Texas Tech, she channeled all that academic zeal into her studies and the Residence Halls Association (RHA). Three years of dedicated service earned Morgan an invitation into the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) — a select group of the top 1% of RHA. 

After graduation, Morgan joined Page, and quickly advanced her way from Architectural Intern to Architectural Designer. Then Page began work on The Quad, The University of Houston’s newest, 1197- bed residential community. Morgan jumped in as an Architectural Designer, contributing an understanding of student housing that only comes from experience.

According to Project Executive Andy Albin, “Student housing is constantly evolving. We’re always stretching and experimenting to find what really works for students. As a former RA, Morgan was particularly in touch with the campus community. She brought a real understanding of student needs and applied that to the space we designed.”

For Morgan, creating community and a sense of home was linked to her understanding of how students move through the building and connect with facilities, amenities, and each other. “It’s elements like understanding the front desk and how those areas circulate,” said Morgan. “How will students use meeting spaces, and where should those areas be located? And thinking about things like the mailbox room and lockers. What about the gym, laundry, and yoga lawn?”

And in true RA fashion, Morgan added, “There’s also a balance of what students think they want and what’s good for them.”

“The Quad is an enormous project,” said Andy, “so I got to watch Morgan do things she’d never done before and excel at them. She built relationships and got to know the contractor. That’s a big part of becoming a highly qualified architect. Involving emerging talent on a project is so important. She was leading and learning. That’s something we believe in. And Morgan’s background added a dimension to the team that few of our competitors even consider.”

Last February, Morgan earned her Architecture license. So, what’s next? She continues to stay in touch with the campus community by participating in conferences like the Southwest Association of College and University Housing Officers (SWACUHO), and she's excited about Page's ongoing residential community projects.