UI outlines housing expansion

BY ARIANA WITT | APRIL 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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AMES — University of Iowa officials are planning pod-style living and a learning community for a new residence hall on the West Campus — the latest update on the expected expansion of university housing.

Tom Rocklin, the UI vice president for Student Life, addressed the state Board of Regents on Thursday in Ames and said the university will face capacity challenges in the future and plans to utilize "pod-style" living for students in a new residential hall to combat this growth.

"We're very excited about the possibilities for our students going forward," he said. "We think this new residence hall will help us both with the capacity and set a good pattern for our learning in the halls."

Campus housing has been over-capacity for several years, an issue accentuated by the continually increasing size of the incoming classes. Officials took steps, such as leasing a building at the privately owned Lodge, but they have made it clear they ultimately need an additional dorm.

The new dorm will feature 450 beds divided into a two parts. The first, a pod style of living will house 24 students in double rooms that will surround a common living and study space.

Only first-year students will be allowed to live in the new arrangement.

The other area will consist of a new living-learning community, with suites housing up to eight students in four rooms and 40 students per floor. Officials have used living-learning communities as a tool to boost retention rates.

Rocklin said officials have a goal to offer a learning-community experience to all incoming students, though this goal is likely to take a few years.

"We know that living-learning communities are very effective at promoting retention," he said. "We're confident both because of other people's experiences and because of what we've observed in our smaller communities that this arrangement will be very effective."

UI senior Ashley Sharp, who lives in the Honors Nexus in Mayflower, said her learning community makes her feel welcome.

"I was really glad I lived in one because I just felt like we all had something in common," she said.

Building the new residence hall would require the UI to demolish a section of Quadrangle Residence Hall, a loss of 47 beds. Between the demolition and initial construction, the UI will pay an estimated $42 million.

Regent President David Miles said it's clear university officials need to invest in additional housing.

"The university's grown, so this is a good thing, and I'm glad they are looking at some different approaches," he said.

Regent Robert Downer said that while he believes the plans are impressive, he wonders whether the UI can stick to a completion date of the fall of 2014.

"I think these are very exciting plans, and I'm very pleased with them," he said. "I would just hate to see the timeline lag on this. I think that's occurred too much already."

Rocklin also said feels confident about the timeline.

"The tricky thing about residence halls is that you only have one time of the year you can open them," he said. "We've been very cognizant of that in the process."

UI officials are also considering additional housing on the West Side in the future, including both living-learning communities and more traditional dorms.

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