Dorm Life: Past and Present

Ever since the Brigham Young Academy Boarding House was established in September of 1884, the university has been concerned with the living situation of its students. Over the years, BYU students – single and married – have lived in boarding houses, rooms in Provo family homes, basement apartments, co-op houses, dormitories…even trailers!

In the 1950’s construction began on campus for single students, forming the Heritage Halls and Helaman Halls complexes. Helaman, providing living space for men in five buildings, was built on a traditional dormitory model with two students to a room and shared bathroom facilities for multiple students; while Heritage – originally built to house women in twenty-four “housekeeping dormitories” – consisted of buildings containing from ten to twelve apartments. In the fall of 1963 the first of seven high-rise dorms were completed at Deseret Towers and three more buildings were completed at Helaman during the 1970’s.

In response to changing students’ needs and the demands of technology, the university began renovating the halls at Helaman in 1991. Newly renovated buildings provide a different style of living for residents, with options that included a 2-person shared room with sinks, or a 4-person suite with one shared bathroom, and allowed for future technology needs. In 2010 a ninth building was added to the Helaman complex. Because retrofitting was not an option at DT or Heritage, Wyview Park - originally family housing - began housing single students in 2006 while demolition work began on Deseret Towers, and four years later the first buildings at Heritage came down, to make way for new apartment-style residence halls at Heritage.

On-campus living at BYU today is a far cry from the model of the 60’s and 70’s. And the mission of BYU’s Residence Life, to “enable individuals to live, learn, work, and grow in gospel-centered communities,” seeks to help students in all aspects of their college experience. Knowing that not all important lessons are learned in the classroom, the Community Standards model used for on-campus housing encourages resident interaction.

Meetings are held regularly to allow residents to discuss concerns or ideas for activities, and to come to agreement on how to live together in a community.

There are lots of ways to get involved through on-campus living. The BYU Residence Halls Association is extremely active within the intermountain region and nationally, and offers a variety of leadership opportunities at the floor, hall or area level. Social media can sometimes isolate individuals, but on-campus housing provides many avenues to interact with others, forming life-changing and life-long relationships. Living on campus isn’t just about a place to store your stuff or a bed to sleep in anymore, it’s a laboratory for learning that greatly enriches the learning that goes on in the lecture hall or the library. Research shows that living on campus helps students achieve greater academic and social success. As BYU students have changed, so has on-campus living. Today, on-campus residents have more opportunities for social growth, spiritual development and academic success. It’s definitely a win-win proposition!