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Topping off ceremony marks new residence hall progress
Posted: 04/17/2006
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In keeping with a long-standing tradition in the construction industry, The University of Texas-Pan American recently held a topping off ceremony for its new $12.5 million residence hall which is currently under construction.

UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas (center) poses with students during the topping off ceremony for the new residence hall April 7.
"We will have, with the students that are residing in this new dorm and in other dorms, the nucleus of what we expect will become powerful owners and advocates of UT Pan American," UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas said during the ceremony. "Out of this we want to create the kind of loyalty and sense of pride and responsibility to the University that lasts a lifetime."

During the topping off ceremony a tree was unveiled at the top of the new dorms and a wooden beam was autographed by students, administrators and staff. The tradition of the ceremony signifies that while a building is not completed, it has reached its maximum height.

"The tree symbolizes the timber used for the home. Placing the tree on the top in a place of honor denotes gratitude and respect for the sacrifice that the tree or trees have made for the home or building," said Dr. John Edwards, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services.

The 108,000-square foot residence hall is scheduled for completion Aug. 1, but applications are already being accepted.

Chad Martin, director of Residence Life, said the majority of the 396 rooms in the new dormitory will be standard suite rooms with two rooms sharing a bathroom. Each room will have modular, movable and stackable room furniture which will allow students to arrange their rooms to their liking, two TV connections per room and a Timer Warner expanded cable package included. Rooms will also feature four Internet connections and wireless Internet throughout the complex and an individual thermostat.

Each room will be carpeted and contain two floor to ceiling closets, smoke and fire alarms, and recessed fire sprinklers. All entries and exits are monitored by a digital security network and each residential wing and commons will feature keyless security and are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible. The residence facility will also feature 13 sets of washers and dryers, study rooms, commons areas, game rooms and three private outdoor courtyards.

"The new residence hall rooms are 30 percent larger than the current dorm rooms, so they are definitely getting a lot more space," Martin said.

Director of UTPA Residence Life Chad Martin (left) and Stephanie Banda, executive council chair of the Residence Housing Association, (right) were among the first to autograph the wooden beam at the topping off ceremony April 7 for the new residence hall.
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. The new residence hall will cost $1,650 per semester. This includes all utilities, furnishings, Internet and TV cable service. Financial aid will be accepted as payment, Martin said.

Stephanie Banda, a junior majoring in English and executive council chair of the Residence Housing Association, has lived on campus for three years and feels the experience of living on campus provides students with a connection to the University.

"Living here has given me a sense of purpose on campus and has made me feel like this truly is my University," said Banda, who signed and turned in her application for the new dorm at the ceremony. "The most important thing, however, is the sense of community that is provided. When I walk onto campus I feel like I'm walking into my front yard." The building was designed by Kirksey Architects of Houston and is being constructed by SpawGlass.

"The ceremony marks a positive measure of UTPA's commitment to strengthen the student population on campus and is the first residence hall built by the University in more than 30 years," said Samuel Smith, director of Enrollment and Student Services Business Services.

The current dorms - Troxel and Women's 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.

Applications are currently being accepted for the new residence hall. Interested students should stop by the Residence Life office at the University Center, Room 315, visit the Web site at www.utpa.edu/reslife and print out a housing application, or call 956/381-3439 for more information.

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