The University of Texas-Pan American is preparing to start construction on its latest project this fall - the new 108,965 square-foot dormitory - set to open in August 2006.
The new residence hall will be the fourth addition to UTPA's current housing, which includes Troxel and Womens Residence Halls, and Bronc Village Apartments. The dormitory will be located on Sugar Road, south of Bronc Village.
"The students encouraged us to build a dorm that would bring a greater sense of community to those students who live here," Smith said. "Students are looking for a sense of community and a sense of belonging and attachment to their campus."
Based on the student surveys, created and conducted by the UTPA Residence Housing Association (RHA), it was determined that students are looking for bigger rooms, movable furniture and a larger commons area.
Chad Martin, director of Residence Life, said the group that had the most influence and input on the housing project was the New Residence Hall Planning Group that consisted of representatives from RHA, Student Government Association, College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), athletics, Troxel Hall, Womens Hall, Bronc Village, faculty, Physical Plant, Auxiliary Services, Dean of Students Office, and others.
"Amenities, building features, student habits and how to make a functional residence hall were discussed. Further discussions focused on the wants and needs of today's student as well as those of this growing University. All of this helped shape the foundation of the new project as it was conceptualized throughout the course of many meetings," Martin said.
The information gathered from RHA and the planning group, was then presented to the Committee for Facility, Planning and Construction on campus, which is made up of administrators only, to gain the approval necessary to proceed with the project.
Martin said the majority of the rooms in the new dormitory will be standard suite rooms with two rooms sharing a bathroom.
"The rooms are 30 percent larger than what we have right now, so they are definitely getting a lot more space," Martin said.
Comfortable and movable furniture will also be included in the dorm rooms, which will allow students to arrange their rooms to their liking. All rooms will include two of each of the following items: beds, dressers, chairs and desks. Martin said closet space is also going to expand a couple of feet.
Besides the two-room suites, 12 single rooms with one bed and a bathroom will also be available for residence life staff or faculty and staff interested in living on campus. Camp counselors will also use the single rooms during the summer to help maintain the costs of the dormitory.
No student fees will be affected by this new addition to the campus; The University of Texas System Revenue Finance Bonds will fund the $12.5 million building. Smith said the only fees affected will be dorm fees, which will maintain and pay for the facility. Fees planned for the new dorm rooms are pending, however Smith said they are looking to charge $1,600 a semester.
"We are having to prove to them (UT System) that we are financially capable of managing and paying for this facility through fees that we collect. So it can't affect tuition," Smith said.
Smith said the residence hall will consist of 400 beds in 200 rooms and will be three-stories high with two wings joined by a 5,000-square-foot commons area.
The current dorms - Troxel and Womens dorms - built in 1969 house a total of 384 beds, while Bronc Village, which opened in May 2000, houses approximately 225 students. Each semester, occupancy for campus housing is full in the three facilities. Smith said with the growing student population every year, it is expected 1,000 new freshmen will converge on the campus in fall 2006.
"Most campuses this size have a larger residential population and the nature of UT Pan American and its growth is to have more people living here on campus," Smith said.
Tentative plans for both Troxel and the Womens Residence Halls include remodeling the rooms into private residence for individual occupancy for upperclassmen and graduate students.
Smith and Martin both agree that there are many advantages to living on campus, such as never having to drive through construction and traffic to get to class and just simply managing time better. Also, both have discovered that students who live on campus for one year are 43 percent more likely to finish college than those who never live on campus. In addition, residence life students have an average GPA of 2.88 compared to the 2.60 average of non-resident students. Students who live on campus also have a retention rate of 90 percent compared to non-resident students who stand at 65 percent.
According to Martin and Smith, students who live on campus, on average have a higher GPA in undergraduate and graduate school; show improved self-confidence and the ability to speak in public; have more interpersonal contacts with faculty and other students; have greater participation in campus activities; and experience the greatest change in their philosophy, values, political and career goals.
"As we look at campus life, our campus residency plays an important role in the success and retention of students. Our retention rates for us are better for those students who live in residence halls and so that is our goal to help these students graduate," Smith said.
The $12.5 million building will be designed by Kirksey Architects out of Houston and will be constructed by Spaw Glass.
Applications are currently being accepted for the new dormitory. The new facility is expected to be fully contracted by April said Martin.
For more information or to obtain a housing application, call 956/381-3439.