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Engaged living

The U ushers in a new era of on-campus housing.

August 26, 2013

New residence halls on the U of M’s Twin Cities, Morris, and Crookston campuses are welcoming students to the fall 2013 semester and ushering in a new era of housing. The trend in residence halls has been to integrate student lodging so that it augments academics. A new hall on the East Bank of the Twin Cities campus, the 17th Avenue Residence Hall, advances that trend with features designed to create engagement and foster community among residents, who will be a mix of first-year and upper-division students.

“The design of the building was very intentional, with community and interaction among students top of mind,” says Laurie McLaughlin, director of housing and residential life.

“There’s research that indicates that living on campus contributes to academic success—to higher graduation rates, and to better retention,” adds McLaughlin.

Living to learn

Twenty-five years ago, the U of M–Twin Cities was a commuter campus, with only about 50 percent of its first-year students living on campus. That number has grown to 87 percent over the years, and may be close to 90 percent this fall, says McLaughlin.

Graduation and retention improvements are attributable to a dramatically improved undergraduate student experience, through efforts like the innovative Welcome Week and freshman seminars, but part of it, too, is because the U is bringing students into an engaged community through its residence halls.

“On a large campus, especially one in an urban area,” says McLaughlin, “that matters. … Here, they have access to resources, to friends, and that’s really important in terms of staying on track to graduate—the distractions here are less,” she says.

Four Living Learning Communities (LLCs) will also be located in the hall, including the Second year Experience LLC, Pillar House LLC, Leaders in Transition LLC (transfer student community), and Huntley House for African American Men LLC.

Sustainability features

The 17th Ave. Residence Hall was built to emphasize energy efficiency and sustainability. At the hall, rainwater collects in large cement cisterns, then moves to storage tanks underground. The water is used for the halls toilets and sprinklers. The hall also includes a green roof for additional storm water management. Tables and carpeting throughout the hall are made from recyclable materials, and high efficiency plumbing and lighting fixtures, as well as heat recovery mechanical systems make the hall one of the most sustainable buildings on the U’s campus.

Built with a façade to match the Greek housing along University Avenue, the hall includes three dedicated Greek spaces in the building, with two chapter rooms for Greek communities that previously didn’t have homes. Students who become involved in Greek communities are often more active and engaged on campus and in the community.

"For our Greek organizations to have space in this new residence hall is extremely important," says Matt Levine, director of the U’s Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life. "The two chapter rooms and the Pillar House will benefit the entire U of M Greek community."

Other features

  • Each floor has a community adviser who facilitates interaction and programming among students.
  • Three community lounges, three study rooms, and a large lounge are located on each floor.
  • The hall's ground-floor restaurant, the Fresh Food Company, offers an open kitchen where chefs prepare made-to-order, fresh food in full view of customers. It is open to the public.
  • The hall’s basement has dedicated music practice rooms, a game room, and a community student kitchen. See a photo album of the hall on Facebook.

The building is the U’s first new, on-campus residence hall since Yudof Hall opened in 2002. More than 600 students began moving into the building on Aug. 26.

At the University of Minnesota Crookston, Heritage Hall, completed in January 2013, is the first suite-style housing on the campus. Each residence hall built at UMC since 2006 has included a successively larger classroom space, designed to encourage a living and learning environment as well as offer the latest in technology. Heritage Hall’s Harris A. Peterson Classroom holds up to 118 and can change from a classroom to a larger space for hosting campus events. It is the largest classroom on the Crookston campus.

Meanwhile, the U’s greenest campus, the University of Minnesota Morris, has just opened the Green Prairie Living and Learning Community. The facility is an innovative living and learning environment (watch video). The two-story facility will provide housing for 72 students during the academic year as well as summer living and learning spaces for research, workshops, and programs linked to campus renewable energy platforms. The hall was designed to complement UMM’s focus on environmental sustainability and its existing campus aesthetic; it is expected to meet Minnesota B3 sustainability guidelines and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold standards. The hall will also feature unique programming designed to engage residents in one of four teams focused on select aspects of green living.

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