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July 26, 2010

Affinity Housing: The Importance of Roommate Matching

College of Coastal Georgia recently transitioned to a four-year residential institution. Among the many changes, the campus will soon include residence halls and a director of residence life. Dave Leenhouts, director of CCGA's student life, heads the committee to hire their director of residence life.

In a conversation with Dave over the weekend, he talked about how the big buzz word on the committee is affinity housing. In other words, pre-matching roommates ahead of time based on similar traits to ensure higher retention rates.

The impact of first year roommates on an individual is huge and can have lasting life time effects from grades, to weight, to drinking habits. The NY Times recently posted an article on the science of roommates.

First-year roommates matter. Though they may go their separate ways sophomore year, their reach can ripple throughout the college years and after.
The researchers aren't entirely clear on why one student has such an impact over another in their first year, but it sounds like a hybrid of the proximity effect of the Framingham Heart Study and the emotional gap felt by first year students.

CCGA is currently using Red Rover as their campus directory to socially connect first year students to similar students and campus clubs. Dave wants to go further and use the directory to roommate students based on similar interests, activities, and background.

An affinity housing dashboard is already within the scope of Red Rover. And because so much of Red Rover is data driven it will be interesting to study the results of matching roommates who are 100% identical verses those who are intellectually, socially, spiritually, etc opposites as a way to promote diversity.

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