InterFace On-Campus Housing Brings Preparation for Generation Z to the Forefront

by Katie Sloan

Atlanta — The 4th annual InterFace On-Campus Housing conference was held last week, bringing over 230 student housing executives to Atlanta for two and a half days of workshops, panel sessions and networking.

The conference brought together college and university housing, business, planning and auxiliary officers and on-campus student housing developers, operators and managers, architects, contractors and vendors to discuss everything on-campus, from P3’s to design and architecture trends.

The conference kicked off Wednesday, Nov. 2, with a guided tour of four on-campus projects and one off-campus community located at and near Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta.

During the tour, attendees were given a first-hand look at the university’s Patton Hall, Piedmont Central, University Commons and University Lofts residence halls, and One12 Courtland, a 717-bed off-campus community recently sold by Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisors.

Concurrent facilitated discussions on designing and building for Generation Z and challenges and opportunities in developing new housing at Tier 2 and 3 schools were held for those who did not attend the Georgia State tour. Both were followed by a cocktail reception, where attendees were able to network and mingle with exhibitors.

Day two picked up after breakfast with InterFace Conference Group’s popular speed networking, where attendees meet-and-greet one another in a format that involves short two-minute conversations designed to foster new relationships.

The day continued with a keynote speech by Michael Wood, a youth expert with The 747 Group. The speech tapped into the next generation of college students: Generation Z.

Wood noted a number of differences to consider between millennials and Generation Z, ranging from their overall attitude, to their values and perceptions. Differences between the two included that while millennials are curators and seek to get the best picture possible or to tell the best story, Generation Z is about speedy communication.

“Generation Z doesn’t have to have that same filter in terms of putting their best face forward, it’s just putting their face forward,” said Wood. He also noted that while images were the primary source of communication for millennials, when targeting Generation Z, video is key.

Wood continued that we’re presented with a number of challenges when attempting to connect with Generation Z, one of which is that they are incredibly impatient. “Generation Z is not willing to wait around for much of anything,” said Wood. “It’s not because they can’t wait, it’s because they don’t need to wait. Everything is available to them at their fingertips, so they expect answers right away.”

Wood also noted that Generation Z has incredibly high expectations, and they trust their contemporaries more than they do older generations. “If they are looking at where they want to live next semester, do you think a floor plan is going to do it? Absolutely not,” said Wood.

“Maybe it could if it is 3D or a 360 degree view,” continued Wood. “They’re not going to stop at seeing what their rooms look like — they want to see the entire floor plan of the building, and how many steps it’s going to take to get down the hallway to the bathroom or what floor they’re on. They also want to see the common space, because that’s going to be equally important to them as the actual room. They’re hungry for this kind of information, so we have to over-deliver.”

Strategies to accomplish great relations with incoming college students, according to characteristics demonstrated by Generation Z will include transparency and the fostering of high, positive feedback from their contemporaries via social media and face-to-face communication.

The day continued with a look at the state of on-campus housing by representatives from the University of Cincinnati, Indiana University, EdR and Brailsford & Dunlavey, followed by roundtable discussions  on a range of topics from residential life to finding the right P3 partner and issues and trends in housing international students.

A general session on private sector developers and P3s began the afternoon, featuring discussion by Charlie Harris of American Campus Communities, Michael Short of Servitas, Jared Everett of EdR, Geoff Eisenacher of Corvias and Jason Taylor of The Scion Group.

Concurrent sessions followed throughout the afternoon on topics ranging from issues and trends in on-campus management to an architecture and design update on the amenitization of on-campus housing.

A showcase of exciting new projects that opened his fall or are under construction for 2017 finished the day, followed by an evening cocktail reception. These projects included 9. E. 33rd by Design Collective at Johns Hopkins University; Bayview by Servitas at Florida International University; Oak Hall and Elm Hall by Corvias Campus Living at Augusta University; Madison Street Residence Hall by HED at the University of Iowa; The Villas Downtown Springfield by Bluffstone at University of Illinois-Springfield; Lofts @ Mercer Landing by Piedmont Construction Group at Mercer University; Park West by The Weitz Company at Texas A&M University; and 650 Lincoln by Holder Properties at the University of South Carolina.

Friday picked up with a networking breakfast, followed by a session on P3 Perspectives where college and university officials discussed their experience with being involved in P3 projects.

The day then concluded with concurrent sessions on technology for on-campus housing and enrollment and rate management, followed by a general session moderated by Student Housing Business Publisher Richard Kelley and Editor Randall Shearin on ten things not said, but that need to be thought about regarding on-campus housing of the future.

Student Housing Business and InterFace Conference Group would like to thank our attendees, sponsors, speakers and moderators for making the 4th annual On-Campus Housing conference a resounding success. 

Katie Sloan 

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