Bright Ideas

Space for Commuter Students

Institution: ,

Implementation Date: September 2009

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Inspired by the Collegia Program at Seattle University, in August 2009 UBC Okanagan created a program to provide a “home away from home” experience for commuter students. There are 3 Collegia on the Okanagan campus in its new $33-million University Centre, each with a unique focus: international students, upper level students, and first and second year students. They are specifically designed to provide the opportunity for students to rest, relax, and socialize with their friends.

Each of the Collegia spaces is between 900 and 1000 sq. ft. Furniture is used to visually separate the different functional areas: kitchen/eating area, group/individual study, resting and small group socializing. These spaces are high traffic spaces and require a robust budget for regular maintenance and cleaning.

The Collegia are intentionally staffed by paid senior student leaders who act as good stewards of the space, and who build community for off-campus students. Staff offer resources and referrals, and create programming and events for the student users. The Collegia are open Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 6:30pm to accommodate students arriving before their 8:00am classes and those students staying on campus until their evening lectures or labs. Programs created for the Collegia are tailored to suit the needs of commuting students. Popular activities and events have included pancake breakfasts, clothing swaps, cake-in-a-cup, potluck socials, and Make-A-Friend week. Both the indicated needs of student users as well as the theme of the Collegia are taken into consideration when developing programs. Events and activities that are hosted in the Collegia also include collaborative programming efforts with the Peer Mentors.

To build or retrofit a Collegium space costs roughly $150,000, depending on the existing infrastructure and physical location. All materials used in the physical space, including furniture and fixtures, need to be industrial quality but have a home-like feel. A full service kitchen including a refrigerator, a dishwasher, microwaves, and dishes is essential in providing both the amenities and the atmosphere of home.

The Collegium for First and Second Year Students:


The Collegium for International Students (and photo top of page):


The Collegium for Upper Level Students:



Photos courtesy of Liz Hilliard, UBC Okanagan. 


UBC-O tracks usage of the Collegia based on the number of students who use the space daily, not unique visitors.  Since their opening in fall 2009, between September and April the International Collegium has averaged 8,335 visitors per year, the Upper Level Collegium 8,376, and the First/Second Year Collegium 10,447. UBC-O reports that the top 4 reasons students indicate they use the space are: #1 To study – both individually and in groups;  #2 – To relax and sleep between classes, meetings, and labs; #3 – To maintain healthy living (students can store and eat their own lunch prepared from home); #4 – To socialize and network with other students.

“Collegia contribute positively to the student experience by helping to include commuter students in the campus community. They are awesome places to meet people, to learn, and to find opportunities to get involved on campus. The Collegium is my home away from home and there is always someone there to hang out with. The space also has great amenities, such as the kitchenette.” – Josephine Schrott, 4th year International Relations student

Key Contact

Name: Liz Hilliard


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