Russell Halls undergo refurbishment before 2015 school year

With the new setup of North Russell Residence Hall rooms, students will have more flexibility to arranging their living quarters.

Freshmen began moving into North and South Russell Halls on Wednesday, after a year-long closure due to a $28 million refurbishment that was part of a $135 million master plan to refurbish residential facilities across campus.

North and South Russell, built in 1962 and 1967, respectively, will house over 600 students and now contain two new living and learning programs that are centered around academic programs of interest to the halls’ residents.

Changes to the halls include increased study and lounge spaces and the addition of a large community kitchen, classroom and seminar room.

Curtis Odle, assistant director for facilities and operations, said the university decided to extend these areas to increase the number of locations students had to study.

“We really wanted to emphasize the academic setting of the residents who live here,” Odle said.

One of the biggest changes to the hall is the fact that North Russell will now house men. In years past, both North and South Russell were available exclusively to females.

The total cost of refurbishment to these halls was approximately $28 million, $3 million less than proposed renovations to Penland Hall, which is currently being refurbished and will be closed for one year.

In addition, Odle said the new furniture gives students increased flexibility to arrange rooms to their liking, which will help students in the areas of space and organization.

Other than new furnishings in both the lobby and the residents’ rooms, Tiffany Lowe, director for campus living and learning, said there were other goals they wanted to accomplish with the refurbishment of the halls.

This included bringing more natural light into common areas such as the lobby and hallways.

“Bringing in more natural light into the building serves a lot of purposes, namely creating a study-friendly environment and helping to generate a social setting for the students,” Lowe said.

Dr. Jennifer Good, acting director of the University Scholars Program, will serve as faculty in residence for North Russell, while Dr. Mona Choucair, a senior lecturer in the English department, will serve as the faculty in residence for South Russell.

Choucair, who said she is affectionately known as Momma Mona to the residents, said having a position like faculty-in-residence helps to bridge the gap between students and faculty on a more personal level.

“I’m really honored and proud to be able to share this beautiful apartment with students, and that actually is one of the greatest benefits of this job,” Choucair said.

Lowe said thus far, receptions from former students who lived in North or South Russell and have seen the refurbishments have been positive.

Last year, she said, residents were able to vote on the furniture they wanted to see in the new residence hall. She said a majority of the students voted for the same furniture housed in East Village.

“Feedback has been very good so far, and it could be because we let students take an active role in deciding what they wanted to see in the new residence halls,” Lowe said.