First Advisor

Karen Haley

Term of Graduation

Spring 2020

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Postsecondary Education


Educational Leadership




Belonging (Social psychology), College campuses -- Social aspects, Campus planning, College campuses -- Design



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 202 pages)


Despite decades of environmental behavior research demonstrating the impact physical space has on human behavior, the American university has been slow to adopt this data into campus design and renovation plans. Campus ecology literature has demonstrated that the physical environment of the university campus communicates messages that influence students' feelings of well-being, mattering, and inclusion within the campus community, all significant contributors to student learning and retention.

Campus spaces designed for community building are essential to cultivate a sense of belonging for university students, however, locations dedicated to this type of social interaction, such as third places, are an often-underestimated consideration within built campus design. Therefore, the purposes of this study were to explore the effects of built space on students' sense of belonging as fostered through the identification and utilization of third places on campus, and to assess if the built campus environment is important for supporting an institutional commitment to a vibrant campus community.

The data for this exploratory study was collected through a qualitative embedded case study including student and employee interviews and campus observation at a small, rural, residential, private university in the Pacific Northwest of the United States whose institutional values identify a commitment to nurturing a robust student community. The five key findings of the study were: the impact of campus topography on student engagement, the social importance of campus pathways, the effect of location on building use, the influence of place-based campus traditions on students' sense of belonging, and the correlation between sense of belonging and campus third places.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier