UI cuts ribbon at Petersen Residence Hall


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With just a month before students move into the new facility, Petersen Hall is teeming with activity.

Community members joined with university representativeson Tuesday afternoon to officially open Mary Louise Petersen Hall, the University of Iowa’s first new dormitory since 1968, with a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“This new residence hall will hone our cutting edge of making the Iowa student experience the best it can be,” UI President Sally Mason told the crowd. “I am so glad my last official act will be dedicating this facility.”

According to the university, Petersen began construction in June 2013 and will house 501 students. It will be the first residence hall to open at the UI since Slater in the 1960s.

Costing $53 million, Petersen features such amenities as a sports grill on the lower level and many TILE-equipped study spaces and lounges throughout the facility.

“This entire building is designed with the idea that we don’t have a lot of space on the West Side for students to congregate,” said Von Stange, a UI assistant vice president for Student Life. “We wanted to facilitate space for the west neighborhood to get together.”

However, Stange, also the senior director of UI Housing & Dining, said the goal will not be difficult to accomplish. With Petersen’s extensive public spaces and technologically savvy study rooms, officials expect the hall to be a popular destination for students.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, members of the community were given the opportunity to tour the building after hearing from several speakers, including Mary Louise Petersen.

Petersen served as president of the state Board of Regents from 1973 to 1981 and co-chaired the university’s Good, Better, Best capital campaign from 1999 to 2005. She is a member of the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the UI in the spring of 2013.

“I really like how they have all the spaces where you can study,” said incoming UI freshman Julia Lampe, who will live in Petersen. “They said that professors might come do study groups here.”

She also said she was excited to be placed in Petersen, and she looks forward to trying the in-house grill.

With the new academic year only a month away, the opening ceremony was full of excitement.

“I want you to imagine the possibility of 3,000 students from all across the west neighborhood coming together,” Stange told the crowd before the ribbon cutting.

UI Housing & Dining has many more plans in place and cannot wait to see residents making the space their own, Petersen coordinator Katherine Schmidt said.

“It’s got endless possibilities,” she said. “It’s really ours to create the legacy of the building.”

Before touring the building, Petersen Hall’s eponym stepped up to the podium to deliver a rousing speech about the importance of education, particularly for women, at the University of Iowa.

“I’m deeply honored that this building will have my name, but in truth, I’m just a placeholder for the many women who have served this university and served it well,” Petersen said. “I’m a placeholder for those pioneers.”

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