New Residence Halls Increase Range
of Student Housing Options
icole Boisvert has lived in r esidence halls since 1997. The past two years, it was McMahon Hall on Hillside Road. For two years before that, she lived in dorms at another college, before transferring to UConn.
Last month, she moved into the Hilltop Apartment Community. home, of course."
Boisvert, a family studies major, isn't alone in enjoying UConn's latest additions to the range of housing options for students. And not all the students pleased with their accommodations are in the new apartments on Stadium Road.
"I love it here," says Libby Sheehan, a junior psychology major from Charlotte, N.C., gazing out a large window in her Hilltop Suites room. "I have tons of room. And the view is great." Her favorite feature? "The air conditioning," she says.
Whether it's more space, single rooms, rooms filled with fellow freshmen, rooms that seem more like home, accommodations configured like a townhouse, or even standard residence hall doubles, UConn now boasts a range of housing options most universities would envy.
"Not only do we have a great array of choices, but the condition of our residence halls is improving every year, thanks to UConn 2000." says Vicky Triponey, vice chancellor for student affairs. Triponey says more than 1,400 new beds came on line this semester. Structural shortcomings were addressed and fire safety systems installed in the McMahon residence halls during the summer, with new lighting, carpets and paint in the hallways and stairwells added at the same time. Northwest Campus, the freshman residence complex, was completely redone last summer. And South Campus, designed to bring students' living and learning experiences closer, raised the bar when it opened in 1998.
The work won't end there, says Larry Schilling, University architect. He says sprinkler systems will be installed next summer in the Alumni complex and Buckley and Shippee residence halls. Discussions will begin soon on whether another complex will be renovated too.
"Excellent residence halls attract students and their parents," says Dolan Evanovich, associate provost for enrollment management. "They want to come to a university that responds well to their needs, whether it's the majors they want, the quality of the academic program, quality athletics, or the housing."
Evanovich says top notch residence halls also help the University retain students. UConn has focused on retention for a number of years now, he says, with the result that the University is among the top 20 universities in the nation, both in retaining freshmen and in the six-year graduation rate.
With the August completion of the Hilltop Apartment Community and the Hilltop Suites, UConn not only added more than 1,400 beds to the campus, it also added to the spectrum of housing students may choose from. In the Hilltop Apartment Community, upperclassmen and graduate students can live in a complex that offers a private bedroom, a fully-equipped kitchen, a washer and dryer in each apartment, a living room, and air conditioning. The Hilltop Suites, on Stadium Road adjacent to the Hilltop residence halls, connect two large double rooms with a shared bathroom.
In Northwest Campus, about 950 freshmen are joined by upper-classmen who serve as role models and mentors and help the new students with academic issues. The mentors receive regular training on how to work with and assist the students. The complex also houses the Academic Center for Entering Students (ACES), which counsels students on academic and career choices, and the First Year Experience Program.
On the other side of campus, the Mansfield Apartments were converted into undergraduate and graduate housing two years ago. Like the Hilltop Apartment Community, the Mansfield Apartments offer kitchen facilities and living rooms.
Lauren Reyher, a seventh-semester family studies major, says she enjoyed living in the apartments, off South Eagleville Road, last year. "It was quiet," she says, "and I loved having a kitchen."
The spacious suites at South Campus - where Reyher lives this year - are elegant as well as quiet, with two bedrooms, a living room, and a bathroom shared by only four students. Those residence halls started the process of upgrading UConn's housing stock.
"The broader concept of what we're doing is to match our housing to students' appropriate development levels," says Triponey. "We're clustering freshmen together in areas where there is more structure, more programs for new students. Our mid-level students have options that offer them enhanced privacy. And the upperclassmen and graduate students can further increase their privacy and take on enhanced responsibility as they move toward life after UConn with the new apartments."
The addition this semester of the Hilltop apartments and new residence halls also were timed to handle a burgeoning student body that began growing in 1997. Nearly 9,500 of the current total of more than 14,000 undergraduates live on campus - making UConn a national leader in the percentage of undergraduate students living in University housing.
The number of beds added proved prophetic: last week, only about 25 students were living in temporary housing. And many of those, says Carole Henry, executive director of housing and food service, would rather not leave the converted lounges and study rooms they now occupy.
"These are good sized rooms, larger than an average room, and many of these students enjoy living with two friends," Henry says.
In the case of the new apartment complex, each student is living with three friends, since most of the apartments are set up for four students. Rather than a room draw, students registering for those apartments were asked to provide the names of their apartment-mates.
"We've done really well taking turns with the dishes," says Katie Loser, a senior from Canterbury who spent her first three years at UConn living in Hale Hall and is a roommate of Nicole Boisvert. "It's a great option, being able to stay on campus while really living off campus, in a sense, since we do our own cooking and have our own computers.
"And having our own washer and dryer? That's just awesome," she says.
Next to home, in fact, many of UConn's residence halls are probably the best places many students have ever lived.