Newly renovated Hester Residential College seems to have changed everything over the last year except for one thing – its sense of community.
When construction began last year on the 44-year-old residential college, Hester residents were relocated to Old Richmond Residential College.
This past weekend, the doors of Hester were opened once again to welcome students home.
DePaul Vera, senior from Clarksville, Tenn., is beginning his third year as a resident adviser for Hester.
He made the transition from Hester to Old Richmond and back, and said the one thing that stayed constant was the community.
Vera said there were hard adjustments to make when he moved to Old Richmond, the most difficult of which was the loss of space.
“Old Richmond was just smaller, so we were crowded. In the new building, we just have more space to be an even better community,” he said.
Vera said his favorite changes so far have not been the new desk in the lobby nor the renovated bathrooms, but rather the news students in Hester.
“We were getting stagnant,” he said. “Now we have fresh staff, fresh residents – residents that are excited about floor meetings.”
Kim Oatman, chief Facilities Management officer, said the facility, which houses 308 students, never had a major set of renovations.
The new renovations include safety upgrades, code compliance, redesigned interiors, new finishes, ceilings, floors and doors.
Work also included replacing windows and upgrading mechanical, electrical and plumbing distribution systems.
Other major work wasn’t apparent at first, but the change that is immediately noticeable is the relocation of the front door of Hester.
The door, which used to open toward Winslow Dining Hall, now faces Springer Residential College.
Oatman said the project cost a total of $9.9 million and was funded by selling agency bonds.
The debt will be paid with housing and dining fees, Oatman said.
He also said Hester previously contained “encapsulated asbestos ceilings and floors prior to renovation.” The asbestos was removed as part of the project.
A new staff member in Hester is Resident Director Katie Coats, graduate student from Florissant, Mo.
As this is Coats’ first year as Resident Director, her first impression of Hester was the renovated building.
Coats said she loves the building, and that she has been able to tell how much it has changed through the reactions of older resident advisers and residents.
Though Coats has only been working and living in Hester for a few weeks, she said she already feels incredibly welcome and at home.
“It was amazing to me, the feeling of community I got before I even got here,” she said. “You can feel the connections people have here.”
For Coats, the best part of her new home is where she will spend the majority of her time – in her apartment and her office.
She also loves the large lobby area where residents can spend time socializing and the additional study lounges on every odd-numbered floor.
Coats said: “There are lots of opportunities for people to mingle and get to know each other.”
Story by Kate Russell, Staff writer