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The Built Environment and Social Interaction: A case study of university students in Waterloo, Ontario

Authors: Tharushe Jayaveer*, University of Waterloo, Markus Moos, University of Waterloo
Topics: Urban Geography, Social Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: urban geography, housing, studentification, social interaction
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


We examine the relationship between the role of the built environment, such as student housing and third places, on social interaction among students at the University of Waterloo. In recent years, there have been increasing calls for universities to develop policies supporting student well-being due to the growing concern of mental health issues on university campuses. One area of concern is the built environment: A built environment that fosters social interaction is often recognized as a vital component in supporting well-being, friendship formation, academic achievement, self-identity and even knowledge creation. The literature has identified housing type, location, and quality as significant determinants of individuals’ social lives and well-being. However, this research has not yet in detail studied the importance of housing and the built environment in shaping social interactions among university students. We surveyed students at the University of Waterloo and collected information on students’ residential environments, built form, demography, and various indicators of social interactions and chance encounters. We found the differences between on- or off-campus housing and connectedness to be statistically significant. We also found positive correlations between connectedness and attending events on- and off-campus, placing a high importance on socializing with others, having communal space in the building, and the walkability of housing location.

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