Augusta University took a “giant step forward,” according to junior communication major Brikkel Rucker, by formally unveiling Oak and Elm halls on Wednesday.
University President Brooks A. Keel and other distinguished guests, including Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis and University System of Georgia Associate Vice Chancellor for Fiscal Affairs Susan Ridley, cut the ribbon on the new, state-of-the-art residence halls that offer more than 700 beds to undergraduate and graduate/professional students.
Two years ago, Rucker was one of the first freshman students to live on the Health Sciences Campus in Residence IV. She and other freshman students were essentially part of an experiment to gauge whether first-year students could successfully live on the Health Sciences Campus while taking classes on the Summerville Campus. The experience was a success because Rucker is now a resident assistant in Oak Hall, the undergraduate residence. She lives with and mentors more than 300 freshman students in the 97,000-square-foot building.
“Oak and Elm halls are great additions to the Health Sciences Campus, and they will help recruit, retain and push us to graduate. From that small freshman community concept started two years ago to this modern building that will serve our current and future students, I look forward to seeing Augusta University grow and graduate future Jaguars who will go on to be the next generation of leaders,” Rucker said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Oak Hall and Elm Hall replaced Residence IV and Residence V that housed only about 100 students. Oak Hall is composed primarily of two-bedroom suites with a student in each room and two-bedroom suites with two students per room. Each suite is fully furnished and has its own bathroom. Elm Hall, the primarily graduate residence, has fully furnished studio, one-bedroom, one-bath and two-bedroom, two-bath apartments, each with its own kitchen and breakfast bar. In addition to living spaces, Oak and Elm halls also offer a variety of chat, gather and connect spaces for studying and social interaction. These spaces, found on each floor of the residences, offer traditional table-and-chair seating and soft seating for lounging.
Graduate and professional students are now just steps from their classes, labs and clinical experiences. New freshmen are now located walking distance to the Wellness Center, the Health Sciences Student Center, Atrium Dining Hall and the Student Health Center.
“I am excited for what this opportunity brings to our students and the ability to enhance their college experience. We know research shows that having facilities like this makes a difference in retention and academic performance, so this is a game-changer for us,” said Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs Mark Allen Poisel. “Our philosophy is this isn’t just a place where they sleep. It’s so much more. That’s why I don’t call these “dorms”; they’re residence halls. It’s where students interact, they live, they learn, and change their lives.”
Dr. Keel described Oak and Elm halls as “game-changers,” and the ribbon-cutting a “historic moment.”
“Really, it marks the beginning of a whole new phase for our students. Whenever you have students in one location on a campus like this, it brings a tremendous excitement. It’s going to change the face of this university, especially of this campus,” Keel said.