A warm and welcoming environment — along with first-rate residential facilities — helped Saginaw Valley State University continue to climb the rankings for a website grading the nation’s “best dorms” and campuses.
SVSU placed No. 4 overall in the nation and No. 1 among all U.S. public universities in the website Niche’s “2020 Best College Dorms” ranking, which uses a weighted formula where 70 percent of a school’s score comes from student satisfaction surveys.
This marks the second consecutive year SVSU’s score bested all other public universities. Its No. 4 overall ranking — which includes private institutions — represents a jump from No. 8 last year, SVSU’s previous best showing in the category. The university is the only higher education institution in the state to appear in the ranking’s top 60 this year. In total, 1,384 colleges and universities were included on the list.
Renee McKinnie, a rehabilitation medicine major at SVSU, said her tour of the campus’ housing facilities three years ago played a role in helping her decide to choose the university and move there from her hometown of Detroit.
“It felt like you were at home,” she said of that first impression. “Looking back, coming here was the best decision because I’ve had the best experience living on campus.”
McKinnie now works as a student resident assistant, putting her in a leadership role with her peers and neighbors living with her on campus. She said residing on SVSU’s campus provides an education outside of the classroom.
“We’re a small community but there’s so much diversity,” McKinnie said. “When you live here, you get to know people from different backgrounds and cultures. It’s a blessing to be around so many different types of people.”
The on-campus activities — including movie screenings, game nights, icebreaker events, and concerts, among other types of gatherings — provide opportunities for residents from different corners of the university’s housing complexes to gather for fun, she said.
“You become close to people in your building, but there are so many ways to bridge out and meet other people living here,” she said.
Michele Gunkelman, SVSU’s director of residential life and an alumna who once lived on campus, said both SVSU’s beautiful housing structures and its welcoming, tight-knit community atmosphere help the university’s residential life stand out at a national level.
“Living on campus is more than a place to hang your hat; it's a place to connect, be successful, make an impact, and develop your passion,” Gunkelman said. “We pride ourselves on creating a safe and secure living and learning environment for our students.”
Credit for that environment goes beyond the staff members who supervise the housing facilities and provide leadership, she said. Students also play a large role in creating a campus environment where they can thrive academically and socially.
“Students make SVSU a great place to live, especially the student leaders,” Gunkelman said. “From the desk staff who welcome residents, to the councils that plan events, to the student residential assistants who aid in students finding their place at SVSU: everyone is working together to create this community.”
That community will begin to gather and build for the next academic year this week. While some students already have moved into the residential housing for the 2019-20 academic year, the bulk of the on-campus population — freshmen — begin moving into their new homes Wednesday at 10 a.m. SVSU is expected to reach its housing capacity at 2,435 total students; of those, 1,050 will be freshmen.
To access the Niche “2020 Best College Dorms” rankings, go to www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-college-dorms/.