Throughout the summer, SoonerSports.com will go "behind the team" with features on the support staff all across campus that help Oklahoma soccer succeed. The fourth installment of this series features Bryan Hinnen, Director of Operations for Headington Hall.
Check out OU's Behind the Team archives here.
What is a residence hall to your average freshman student?
A place to eat, sleep and study? A place to meet new friends and hang out together?
It is all those things, of course. But Bryan Hinnen and the rest of the staff at Headington Hall have a greater goal in mind. For them, Headington Hall is not just a residence facility. It is a family, a community and a genuine experience all its own.
Hinnen is part of a unique staff set-up at Headington that includes two full-time staff members as Housing Coordinators, 16 Resident Assistants (RAs) and a Faculty-in-Residence (FIR). As Director of Operations at Headington, Hinnen's job is both to curate an incomparable experience for the students in the dorm and to innovate for future residents as well.
"I really respect and appreciate the opportunity to be a part of something this spectacular," Hinnen said. "The amount of time, detail and effort that was put into this residence hall surpasses just about any building project I've seen thus far."
A $75 million project opened for the 2013-14 school year, Headington Hall houses 49 percent OU student-athletes and 51 percent traditional students. The residence facility features housing for 380 students in two- and four-bedroom units.
But to the students that live there, Headington is much more than a set of impressive numbers. Hinnen and the staff strive to create a unique experience for the inhabitants of the residence--one that will linger far beyond a single year.
"A lot of our student-athletes from last year have told us that they miss living here," Hinnen said. "The entire first floor is community space: an academic lounge, the game room, the media room, the movie theater, the cafeteria, the formal living room. We have a lot of spaces where the students can congregate and spend time together."
Hinnen witnessed that camaraderie on a daily basis in Headington's first year. At one point, he set out a 1,000 piece puzzle on the first floor of the hall. Students passing by would take time to sit down and fill in their own bit of the puzzle, even if it was a single piece. Three weeks later, students tweeted Hinnen a picture of the completed puzzle, a "Headington team" effort.
Through their Headington experience, OU student-athletes create their own personal fan club outside of their teammates. Hinnen would attend volleyball or soccer matches and see football, track and tennis student-athletes in the stands, cheering on their friends.
"It was definitely a great experience and a great community for our first year," Hinnen said.
Hinnen and the staff at Headington were recognized for their efforts in building an outstanding community with the President's Trophy. The award is given to the top housing option on OU's campus.
"It goes beyond facilities," Hinnen explained. "It involves the actual programming we do with our student staff. Each of our RAs and our Housing Coordinators plan an actual curriculum that focuses on getting our students together and creating beneficial interactions."
For Hinnen, the goals moving forward are even loftier. He and the staff hope to conduct research based around living and learning communities within the residence hall, including grouping-together like-minded residents on topics they're interested in. It might be a healthy-living community, or a leadership certification process. No matter what, the goal is the same: find things the students are already interested in and give them new paths to learn more.
No matter what goals the staff at Headington has in mind, the central focus will always remain the same: providing the best possible experience for the students living within the facility. For Hinnen, what truly sets Headington Hall apart is not the incredible amenities or the beautiful design. It's the community within its walls.
"Our student-athletes build a community that lasts well beyond Headington," Hinnen said. "They all share that common bond of being a student-athlete at Oklahoma."