Shared from the 8/28/2016 Connecticut Post eEdition

HIGHER EDUCATION

Colleges show off new facilities

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The University of Bridgeport’s new University Hall dormitory at 40 Rennell St.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

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Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

Upperclassmen help freshmen move their belongings into Sacred Heart University’s Roncalli Hall, which is located in Bridgeport, across the street from Sacred Heart’s main campus in Fairfield on Friday. Classes begin on Monday at Scared Heart.

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Big Red, the Sacred Heart University mascot, waves as upperclassmen help freshmen move their belongings into Roncalli Hall.

When 230 upperclassmen descend on the University of Bridgeport campus this weekend, they will find a new $21 million dormitory — for now called University Hall — flush with the latest in technology, amenities, conference rooms and space.

They won’t be the only students living or studying in new digs.

New facilities will be opening on college campuses across the state as the 2016-17 academic year begins.

There will be new residence halls at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield and the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

At Fairfield University, there will be a new recreation center and, at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, a new science building. And a whole new wing is taking shape at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport.

Tight budgets, enrollment uncertainty and a growing concern about the cost of higher education has not slowed construction. Schools still try to leave new students — and the parents dropping them off — with a shiny first impression.

“In our case, (keeping up with) the Joneses have nothing to do with it,” George Estrada, UB’s executive director of facilities Planning and Operations, said. “As we grow and need to expand facilities, both academic and residential, we carefully balance the costs of renovating older, often energy-inefficient buildings, with the longer term savings of new construction, incorporating modern technologies.”

The ‘X’ factor

Still there is a “wow” factor for students entering Jorge Bergoglio Residence Hall at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield for the first time.

“This is very different,” Lauren Silver, a Sacred Heart senior from Vernon, said.

The building, to be dedicated Tuesday morning, bears Pope Francis’ birth name.

Built for 200 sophomores, the facility features a video game classroom for those majoring in video game design and for a competitive video game club. The rooms are each set up differently with two doubles connected in the middle with a sparkling, large bathroom, Silver said. They call them pods.

“It’s like 10 times better than senior housing,” John Shannon, a Sacred Heart senior from Bridgeport, declared. “Everything is fresh, new.”

John Stevens, a freshman from Southington, said it was the overall vibe he felt when he walked on campus for the first time that convinced him to come to the Catholic university.

“It had that X factor,” Stevens said while moving into Sacred Heart’s Roncalli Hall — located across the street from the main campus — on Friday, the start of move-in for some 1,355 freshmen.

Emily Spellman, a freshman health sciences major from Haverhill, Mass., said what attracted her to Sacred Heart was the new simulation lab she heard Sacred Heart was building.

“I wanted that type of environment,” she said. “I also knew I wanted a campus where basically everything was all together.”

With the addition of the new residence hall, Sacred Heart will no longer have to house students at the Trumbull Marriott as it has for the past two school years.

While some other universities have seen enrollment declines, particularly among traditional-age freshman, Sacred Heart has not. There were 1,250 freshman admitted.

“By building more residence halls, we are responding to the desire of students and their parents for more housing on campus and living up to our promise to those in nearby neighborhoods to house more students on campus,” Deborah J. Noack, Sacred Heart’s director of communications, said.

STEM, games and recreation

At UConn, where about 12,600 undergraduates move onto campus this weekend, the new big thing is a $79 million, 727 Next-Gen Hall.

The eight-story building is the first new on-campus housing in 13 years and is the first building completed under a $1.5 billion state initiative to expand UConn’s programs in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

In all, about 23,000 UConn undergraduates start classes on Monday.

At UB, the open floor concept in Jessica DePalmer’s suite in the new University Hall, will probably be the envy of every residence director on campus.

“That’s my favorite part,” DePalmer said. “That and the stainless steel appliances in the kitchen.”

UB’s new residence hall, which sits across the street from where the university’s 10-story Shine Hall once stood, is the first brand new dorm in decades. The four-story dorm adds 230 beds to campus and some additional parking. Some 1,200 students now live on campus. Many graduate students live just off campus.

In addition to traditional dorm rooms, there are four-person units on every floor that include single bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen. There is also a themed game room on each floor and a handful of corner units in the facility designed for students with mobility issues.

“The space is more generous and the windows on two walls make it real nice,” Estrada said.

This year at Fairfield University, students will find a renovated Recreation Complex, otherwise known as the RecPlex. Paid for by donors, the multilevel complex includes the latest equipment, an elevated indoor track, a 25-meter pool, fitness areas, a refurbished racquetball court and more.

Other construction projects are still in the works, including a new nursing and health sciences center, a new parking garage, and expansion of the campus center.

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