First residence hall gives UHC a home-away-from-home feel

By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald

For the first time in its 102-year history, the University of Holy Cross (UHC) has built a residence hall on campus for local and out-of-state students. And, on Aug. 12, the first wave of residents was busy moving in as finishing touches were going on around them.

Archbishop Shaw graduate Joshua Mitchell, 18, was one of the new residents. His mother, Angela Mitchell, and siblings Bailey and Dylan were helping him in the move. 

Mitchell said he had scouted other universities in New Orleans, wanting to have the college experience of living on campus. When he discovered UHC was building a residence hall and offered his legal studies major, he began comparing tuition and fees. He found not only that the costs were much lower at UHC but also that the classes were smaller, with a student-faculty ratio of 13 to 1. He also wanted to get a Catholic education.

  “I’m a very spiritual person,” Mitchell said, who shares a double-person suite with a graduate student. “Right off the bat, I felt very welcomed here, like they wanted me to be here. I felt like God wanted me here.”

Mitchell’s mother was thrilled when he decided to enroll at UHC.

“For us, I’d rather him get through law school debt-free, so, when he graduates he will be a little bit better off financially,” Angela Mitchell said. “The pieces all seemed to fit together, and we knew UHC was for him.”

Icing on the cake for Mitchell was knowing classmates from Archbishop Shaw and friends from the all-girls’ Academy of Our Lady were enrolled at the University of Holy Cross, he said.

Because it is so new

The $14 million, 60,000-square-foot residence hall, located on the east side of campus on Woodland Drive in Algiers, has been under construction since late summer 2017. It was built by The McDonnell Group and can accommodate up to 150 student-residents when totally occupied. It is the first newly constructed building on the UHC’s campus since the building of the A&P Lab in 2004.

Because having a dorm on the UHC campus is not commonly known, only about 15 people have moved in so far.

“People are still calling us with interest about the fall semester,” said Arlean Wehle, vice president of finance and operations/treasurer at University of Holy Cross.

The spacious building features wide halls and tall ceilings and offers fully furnished single private rooms with a bath as well as several two- and four-bedroom units with a living and kitchen area. There are two types of double rooms – one has a smaller kitchenette and living room with a shared bathroom; and the other is a deluxe double room with more living space, a larger kitchen area and one bathroom. There also is a deluxe, four-bedroom unit with two bathrooms. Students living in the single rooms provide their own mini refrigerators, but a full-size refrigerator is included in all other units. All students should bring their own microwaves.

All areas have keypads that restrict access only to those who live there. Guests will have to sign in and out, Wehle said. A resident assistant will live on each floor with occupied dorm rooms, and Holy Cross Father Guillermo Aguilar will live on the second floor of the residence.

Two residential study halls are available on floors two, three and four. On the first floor, there is a community kitchen open to all residents, a living room that has tables with plug-ins for computers and phones, and two conference rooms that can be reserved.

The residence hall also includes a prayer and meditation room, a fitness center with male and female locker rooms with showers, and laundry and post office facilities. The gym is free to residents; but will be open to faculty and other students to use by fee. A campus nurse is on site Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. 

“We wanted to make sure it was a place they would feel welcomed,” Wehle said, adding that the university did research on design and cost.

Freshman Garyell Lewis, who recently graduated from the New Orleans Math and Science High School, was hitting the coffee and donuts provided on move-in day. She is in the pre-nursing program and will live in a two-bedroom unit.

Lewis said she loves to cook and plans to take full advantage of the kitchen on the first level of the residence hall.

“I feel like I’m more independent because I get to be on my own and learn responsibility,” the 17-year-old said.

The residence hall, one of this year’s largest economic development projects on the West Bank of New Orleans, is the first university residence hall on the West Bank in New Orleans history, a spokesman for UHC said.

“This gives us more alternatives now,” said Dr. Buck Landry, UHC president. “We were limited by not having a residence hall. Now we can market to out-of-state students. Having a nice place like this on campus should help us.”

Landry also mentioned the new physician assistant’s program that is coming, hopefully, by next summer. The school is working to build a simulation lab for that program. 

To apply for housing or for details, go to http://uhcno.edu/housing/index.html or call Heather DuCharme, director of University Housing and Residence Life at 398-2126 or reslife@uhcno.edu.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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