This fall, Mountain State University broke ground for a new residence hall. You can read about it, watch video, and see fantastic photos on this cutting edge website, designed and maintained by Mythology Marketing.

The new residence, which will house about 200 additional students, will open in the fall of 2010.

As a college student in the early 90s, I lived on campus for 3 years at a large public university. My freshman dorm housed over 300 freshman women.

From the day we moved in, the residence hall staff worked hard to build a sense of community and pride within our residence hall. Everyone seemed to have a dorm T-shirt, and each corridor had a unique theme, decorations, and events. As we interacted with other students on campus, “Where do you live?” was often the first question. Some of us were proud and happy with our residence hall assignments, others not as much.

Clearly, though, just living in proximity to others does not create community. In college, I formed community with others as I shared activities and interests with them.

I have been debating with Wally Bock about leaders and their ability to create and foster community. While it seem implausible to say that a college president or other executives at a university could influence community, I do think that front line leaders, such as residence hall managers or resident assistants, contribute to fostering an environment that causes community to flourish on campus.

By providing a structure of social events and allowing time and space for students to gather, residence hall staff give students the building blocks of community.

Though college residence halls are certainly different —  I see them as existing in a bubble — they offer an important lesson for leaders who want to encourage community in their organizations.

Here it is:

Leaders who want to encourage community provide time and space for relationships to develop.

As we prepare to open the new residence hall this fall, we are providing time and space for our new students. In planning for this new building, Dr. Polk, our president and other executives paid close attention to planning a space to allow for students to gather in community with one another. The residence hall staff and students will build community as they share life together, and the growth of the community will seem spontaneous, but it would not be possible without the structures in place that allow it to thrive.

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.