UD opens new dorm

Academy Street build­ing houses 531 fresh­men

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

For the third time in five years, Univer­sity of Delaware stu­dents re­turned to cam­pus to find a brand new res­i­dence hall await­ing them.

After two years of con­struc­tion, the new South Academy Street Res­i­dence Hall of­fi­cially opened Satur­day, when more than 4,300 in­com­ing fresh­men be­gan ar­riv­ing to cam­pus.

The new four-story dorm, lo­cated on Academy Street be­tween Smyth Hall and Hartshorn Hall, houses 531 fresh­men in 14 clus­ters that UD of­fi­cials re­fer to as “com­mu­ni­ties.”

The dorms have a tra­di­tional lay­out with com­mu­nal bath­rooms, rather than the suite-style rooms built a decade ago on Laird Cam­pus, lo­cated off New Lon­don Road.

Jim Tweedy, di­rec­tor of res­i­dence life and hous­ing, said stud­ies have shown

that fresh­men do bet­ter in tra­di­tional-style res­i­dence halls, which tend to pro­mote more so­cial in­ter­ac­tion.

“Any­body would say, ‘I want the big­gest room pos­si­ble and I want the most pri­vate place around,’ but we find that the more pri­vacy we build in, the harder it is to meet peo­ple,” Tweedy said.

So­cial bonds form when stu­dents see each other in lounges or even on the walk down the hall to the bath­room.

“What the bot­tom line is for our stu­dents and their ex­pe­ri­ence at the univer­sity is build­ing up their so­cial con­nec­tions and build­ing a peer group. That helps them get in­volved and helps them get en­gaged on cam­pus,” Tweedy said. “We try to de­sign our fa­cil­i­ties to help fa­cil­i­tate stu­dent in­ter­ac­tion and stu­dent en­gage­ment.”

The dorm rooms, most of which of­fer 195 square feet of space for two stu­dents to share, are largely bare­bones ac­com­mo­da­tions, but com­mon ar­eas are not lack­ing for 21st-cen­tur y touches.

Small lounges in each community of­fer a va­ri­ety of fur­ni­ture to re­lax in, and a larger gath­er­ing space on the first floor has a raised stage area for per­for­mances and a sound sys­tem that in­cludes in­puts for mi­cro­phones and gui­tars. The res­i­dence life staff will or­ga­nize var­i­ous pro­gram­ming through­out the year and also en­cour­age stu­dents who are mu­si­cally in­clined to per­form at ca­sual cof­fee-house events.

“We do a lot of work to ask stu­dents to give their tal­ents up for the community,” Tweedy said. “We have stu­dents who are in­cred­i­ble per­form­ers.”

A unique amenity is the “idea lab,” a room where stu­dents can get to­gether to brain­storm ideas for a project or work on a pre­sen­ta­tion. The room con­tains a table­top that dou­bles as a touch­screen com­puter, as well as two pro­jec­tors for dis­play­ing com­puter screens or other me­dia. It also has a col­ored light sys­tem, which can bathe the room in red or green.

“The idea is to use tech­nol­ogy to brain­storm projects,” Tweedy said. “The light­ing is just a bonus, but it’s been very pop­u­lar among peo­ple who have al­ready moved in.”

Even the shared kitchen has re­ceived a mod­ern-day makeover. Cam­eras po­si­tioned over the stove al­low stu­dents to record cook­ing demon­stra­tions to share with friends. UD might also bring in fac­ulty mem­bers from its restau­rant man­age­ment pro­gram to give pro­fes­sional cook­ing lessons.

The open­ing of the new res­i­dence hall caps off a more than decade-long ef­fort to re­place much of UD’s older hous­ing stock with more mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties.

Four new com­plexes opened on Laird Cam­pus be­tween 2005 and 2008, re­plac­ing the old Pen­cader com­plex. In 2013, Red­ding Hall and a re­built Gil­bert Hall opened be­hind the Perkins Stu­dent Cen­ter. They were fol­lowed two years later by the new Cae­sar Rod­ney dor­mi­tory and din­ing hall on Academy Street.

This fall also marks the un­veil­ing of a ren­o­vated Rus­sell Din­ing Hall, which was up­graded to in­clude café-style seat­ing, an open floor plan and a brick pizza oven. Kent Din­ing Hall, which ended its 90-year run in May, will be re­pur­posed.

On Satur­day, UD Pres­i­dent Den­nis As­sa­nis mar­veled at the new South Academy Street dorm as he greeted ar­riv­ing stu­dents.

“Look at it,” As­sa­nis said. “It’s a gor­geous fa­cil­ity. It could be a first-class ho­tel any­where.”

“We’re not go­ing to stop here,” he added, hint­ing that more new res­i­dence halls are planned, though he de­clined to give de­tails.

The re­cent con­struc­tion has al­lowed UD to con­cen­trate fresh­men around the Perkins Stu­dent Cen­ter on Academy Street. Ap­prox­i­mately two-thirds of firstyear stu­dents live in that area.

“We find this is a very pop­u­lar spot of cam­pus, and the con­cept is to build community, so be­ing able to put peo­ple in prox­im­ity to each other is very help­ful,” Tweedy said. “Right now, we’re by a ma­jor se­ries of other res­i­dence halls, close to a stu­dent cen­ter and cer­tainly very close to The Green.”

So far, the dorm that opens Satur­day is called, sim­ply, South Academy Street Res­i­dence Hall. How­ever, a board of trustees com­mit­tee re­spon­si­ble for nam­ing fa­cil­i­ties is ex­pected to dis­cuss the build­ing later this year.

If the com­mit­tee de­cides to re­name the build­ing, a pos­si­ble choice might be John Dick­in­son Hall, which would carry on UD’s re­cent pat­tern of re­pur­pos­ing the names of dorms that are de­com­mis­sioned. The old Rod­ney and Dick­in­son com­plexes on Hill­side Road closed in 2015.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

The Univer­sity of Delaware’s new South Academy Street Res­i­dence Hall opened Satur­day.

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