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New Housing and Residence Life office brings less space, but greater sense of community

Housing and Residence Life moves to Gibbons dorm in an effort to consolidate staff

<p>Housing and Residence Life's move to a new office in Gibbons has opened previously closed doors, fostering a greater sense of community among staff members.</p>

Housing and Residence Life's move to a new office in Gibbons has opened previously closed doors, fostering a greater sense of community among staff members.

In an effort to consolidate its large staff, Housing and Residence Life has moved its central office from Dabney to Gibbons following the opening of Gibbons dorm this fall in the Alderman Road Residence Area. The new office is located in the annex or office wing of Gibbons, and the space provides Housing staff members a more cohesive work environment.

“In Dabney, all of the functions [of Housing and Residence Life] were split up,” fourth-year College student and Co-Chair for First Year Areas Emma Myers said. “The move to Gibbons was to update our space, but it was also to bring all of the different functions together in one place.”

Program Coordinator DeAnza Cook, a third-year Batten and College student, said she values the new location because it provides an opportunity to collaborate with other Housing and Residence Life staff members.

“[T]he move was an opportunity for Housing to come together with other student-oriented organizations…under one roof,” Cook said. “It’s interconnected and gives us the opportunity to fulfill our mission of serving students around Grounds.”

The new office also allows student-staff members a greater ability to interact with professional and graduate staff members.

“We’re building a relationship with [the professional staff] that we didn’t have before,” Myers said. “There is a stronger sense of community in the office now that some of those doors that used to separate us aren’t there.”

To further promote this sense of cohesion, resident advisors and senior residents have access to the new office. Third-year College student Amy Pressy is a resident advisor in Dunglison, which is located next to Gibbons House.

“[The office] is more central; it’s a phenomenal location,” Pressy said. “I get to interact with the people who work in the office a lot more than I did last year.”

Although the new office effectively consolidates the large Housing and Residence Life staff, it also comes with a much smaller workspace.

“We’ve moved to a significantly tinier space,” Myers said. “There is a lot of communal, shared office space both for professional and student staff, which changes the dynamic.”

Cook said Housing staffers are still getting used to the greater number of people in the condensed space.

“We’ve all had to adapt to having more people around and we’re still working on how to find that balance,” Cook said. “It’s a work in progress.”

As Housing and Residence Life adjusts to the new space, staff members are working on initiatives to accommodate increasing numbers of students in on-Grounds housing and improve conditions of this housing. The building of Gibbons helped Housing and Residence Life fit the University’s largest incoming class yet in dorms, although the number of first-year students this year does not reach beyond housing’s capacity, Myers said.

The renovation of existing dorms is another one of Housing and Residence Life’s major projects for the upcoming year. Part of Gooch Residence Area is closed this year for renovation, and parts of the McCormick Road Residence Halls will close next year for similar updates.

“There’s a real push to update the spaces,” Myers said. “There is [also] a great focus in Housing and Residence Life on what new upper-class housing might look like.”

Though there may be future challenges regarding a lack of space to accommodate a growing number of students, current students and the quality of their housing facilities are higher priorities.

“There’s an understanding that as classes grow, there will be a need for more housing, but right now, we’re interested in what students want that housing to look like,” Myers said.

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