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The purpose of this study was to explore the ways students experienced and interpreted academic activity within the culture of their daily lives on an undergraduate women's floor in a residence hall at a comprehensive four-year public university in the upper Southern region of the United States. Procedures for ethnographic inquiry, a qualitative research method, were followed to collect and analyze data by participant observation and interviews during the 1992-1993 academic year. The findings are presented in a case study format. The residents of the floor experienced social and academic activity as belonging to different and unequal realms of college life. As locus of the "larger" realm, the social realm, residence hall living provided them with a haven from the stresses associated with academic activity. Within the haven they persistently reminded themselves that they should be devoting more time to academic activity. Themes by which the residents managed a wavering harmony between their social haven and academic demands include "being open," an "efficiency principle," and "constraints on academic talk." Developmental and social theories are cited to argue that residence hall culture was shaped, in part, by the women's pre- and extra-college experiences and knowledge. The study concludes by identifying a "missing theme" necessary for true integration of living and learning in collegiate residence halls. Recommendations for further research and implications for administrative practice are grounded in the literature and the themes that emerged in the particular case.