by Nina Riccio
That traditional, twoman, cinderblock box with linoleum floors that is the standard in undergraduate dorm rooms has gone the way of record albums and fatback TVs. Many students returning to Fairfield this fall are now housed in three new residence halls.
Unveiled this September, the new dorms are striking, comfortable, and generating quite a bit of buzz for their community-like feel. The three are part of a $60 million overall residence hall renovation plan, designed to increase the number of beds on campus and upgrade the quality of housing, while creating spaces that encourage students to gather within their communities.
The new residence for sophomores — 70 McCormick Road — bridges the divide between Jogues and Campion Halls in the “Quad” area of the campus, and houses 132 students in the Students for Justice community. Social rooms feature kitchens, the hallways have bench-like window seats, and there are several, smaller rooms for study. Wood floors throughout the building give it a warm, welcoming feel.
Across from the library, 51 McInnes Road, a building with a beautiful bluestone and slate entryway, was built with apartmentstyle housing for four, six, or eight students. It houses 188 juniors and seniors, and serves as a showpiece for the Village apartment complex.
Up on the north side of campus, the existing Dolan Hall was given a top-to-bottom renovation to convert dorm rooms into apartments for juniors and seniors. The building’s former chapel has been turned into a study space with a loft-like social lounge. As an added bonus, Dolan Hall has some of the best views of Long Island Sound in town.
Sophomore Tom Dalo, a double major in accounting and finance, was thrilled to get a spot in 70 McCormick Road.
“It offers more amenities than other buildings, including two lounges on every floor, wood flooring, hotel-like bathrooms, and a great sense of warmth throughout,” he said.
Just as important, the design of the common spaces enhances living and learning opportunities among students. “Already McCormick has hosted several guest speakers, and Students for Justice members have their mentor meetings in the larger lounges. We really get to know one another,” Dalo said.
The new residence halls were born out of the University’s master plan developed several years ago.
“We had done an environmental analysis and realized that our offerings could be better,” said Mark Reed, vice president for administration and the President’s chief of staff. “Juniors and seniors want alternatives to double-bed dorm rooms, and our competitors had them. A student’s living situation is a major component of the college experience, and we need to be attentive to that.”
Alleviating the overcrowding in the townhouses and the need to house three freshmen in rooms designed for two was also a priority.
“The economic climate actually made this a financially attractive time to build,” added Reed, though budget constraints did mean some planned renovations to other buildings had to be postponed.
“Creating large rooms and common spaces to support our living and learning communities was part of the plan,” added Karen Donoghue, dean of students. “McInnes, for example, has many communal spaces and a conference room to encourage clubs to meet. It’s also the building we will use as our conference center for groups coming in during the summer.”
Christopher Bertini ’12 shares his four-bedroom apartment in McInnes with seven others — there are two showers and toilets, and three sinks in the unit. What he appreciates most? “The fact that it’s brand new and in a great location on campus.”
Left: Kara Reis ‘13, a communication major from San Diego, in her room at 51 McInnes Road.
Right: Two common areas and a conference room in 51 McInnes help support the strategic goal of living and learning. From left: Kyle Cullam ’14, Jenny Dierkens ’13, Megan Knittle ’14, Olivia Johnson ’14, and Andrew James ’14.
The new structures were also designed with a nod toward environmental sustainability.
“Back in 2008, President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which commits us to strive for a ‘climate neutral’ campus,” explained David Frassinelli, associate vice president of facilities management, who chairs the Campus Sustainability Committee.
“We made a commitment to design and build at least to the silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) level.”
A few of the environmentally-friendly pluses in the new buildings include: A small “green” roof on 70 McCormick Road that absorbs rainfall and allows the water to evaporate back into the air, while keeping interiors cooler; an indoor bike storage room at 71 McInnes Road, to encourage the use of bikes on campus and off; water-saving toilets in Dolan; LED lights replacing the high-pressure sodium lights on all exterior walkways; a conscious decision to use renewable materials (flooring, carpeting, etc.) whenever possible; and low-flow shower heads which cut water consumption by 30 percent.
Left: The study space in Dolan Hall, once the chapel for the Sisters of Notre Dame Novitiate. The light fixtures and stained glass were all cleaned and painstakingly refurbished.
Right: Alexandra Shaner’13 and Olivia Geraghty’13 in the living area of their Dolan Hall apartment.
“I’m most excited about the Energy Dashboards in the new buildings, which allow students to track how much energy the building — or even each apartment — is using,” said Frassinelli, who envisions contests between students to determine who can keep their electricity and water usage to a minimum. The University has set its total emission reduction goals at 20 percent by 2020 and 85 percent by 2050. Giving everyone — students and administration — an easy way to track their energy usage is a big step toward achieving that goal. (See the dashboards for yourself at www.fairfield.edu/dashboard.)
“Along with our faculty and our location, our campus is our biggest asset,” said Reed. “We have to continue to make forward progress in order to recruit and retain the best students.”