University breaks ground on $14.7 million, 300-bed residence hall

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University officials broke ground on a 300-bed residence hall, the first new student housing facility to be built on the Western campus in more than 30 years, as part of activities Friday (June 7) during the quarterly meeting of the university’s board of trustees.

The hall, being built at an estimated cost of $14.7 million through funds approved by N.C. voters in the 2000 higher education bond referendum, will be located on Central Drive near the Bird Alumni House and across the road from Harrill Hall. The building is expected to be complete by the fall of 2003.

“The last time we built a residence hall on this campus was at a time when the basic concept was to stack students up like cord wood. You would build these large, high-rise structures, you would make the rooms minimalist, and you would put two students to a room,” Western Chancellor John Bardo said. “At that time, it was not unusual to share a room with a brother or a sister.”

The majority of today’s college students do not come from that type of residential environment, Bardo said, citing recent statistics indicating that 87 percent of today’s students have never had a roommate until they reach college. Western’s new residence hall is designed to accommodate the needs of that new generation of students, he said, and approximately 70 percent of the rooms in the facility will be single occupancy.

Breaking ground for Western Carolina's new residence hall are (left to right) Robert Caruso, vice chancellor for student affairs, Joseph Crocker, chairman of the board of trustees, and Chancellor John Bardo.

Breaking ground for Western Carolina’s new residence hall are (left to right) Robert Caruso, vice chancellor for student affairs, Joseph Crocker, chairman of the board of trustees, and Chancellor John Bardo.

“Today truly represents an opportunity for Western to begin to change the notion of how we house our students, and how we link student housing to their educations,” Bardo said.

An innovative element of the hall will be a faculty-in-residence program in which a Western faculty member will live in the building, part of an on-going effort to improve the living-learning environment on campus, said Robert Caruso, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“By living alongside students, participating faculty members will work with the housing staff to promote the integration of the curriculum into the residence halls, implement educational programs in the halls and serve as mentors to students by discussing student academic concerns and interacting informally with students,” Caruso said. “The faculty-in-residence will encourage other faculty members to participate in residential life through seminars, workshops and other activities and will, as feasible, teach classes in the residence hall.”

Joseph Crocker, chairman of Western’s board of trustees, called the groundbreaking “a significant event in the life of this university,” and he thanked the people of North Carolina for approving the higher education bonds that make construction of the facility possible.

The new residence hall is the first of four student housing facilities on the drawing boards to be built over the next eight to 10 years, as Western prepares for a projected enrollment increase of some 3,000 students.

The first hall will be built by Crossley Construction Corp. of Knoxville, Tenn., which submitted the lowest single-prime bid of $12,743,962, covering all aspects of construction, including the general contract, plumbing, mechanical, fire protection and 12 alternates. Project designer is Walter Robbs Callahan & Pierce of Winston-Salem.

During the meeting, the board of trustees also discussed a plan for a new “Greek Village concept to provide on-campus housing options for Western’s sororities and fraternities. The complex, to contain a minimum of 225 beds, will be built on the edge of campus at the end of Norton Road through a public-private partnership. That facility could be complete by the fall of 2004.

In other action, the trustees approved appointment of:

– Robert Gabrielsen, director of systems for student financial services and registrations at Nova University, as university registrar, effective immediately.

– Valerie J. Matthiesen, associate professor of advanced practice nursing at Northern Illinois University, as coordinator of the master of science in nursing program, effective July 8.

– Nancy G. Mims, professor of educational leadership and foundations at State University of West Georgia, as head of Western’s department of educational leadership and foundations.