Residence Life exploring several options for housing next year

Christine Lee, News Editor

With the new rule of sophomores being required to live on campus kicking into effect next year, Residence Life is looking into several options to house more students residing on campus next year in addition to existing campus housing for upperclassmen.

Director of Residence Life Liz Swantek explains that Fortinsky Hall, next to Schiowitz Hall on Franklin Street, is being renovated to become all-dorm. Currently one side, on 225 to 227 Franklin St. is apartments and the other side, on 229 Franklin St, has single, double and triple dorms.  Swantek is hoping the renovation will combine the two sides.

“We’re working with facilities and an outside architect in order to almost do what we did at Roth Hall and combine the two sides,” Swantek said. “So it will be one building.”

Fortinsky Hall on the 229 side previously served as an all-male residence hall with one resident assistant and the 225 to 227 side had a total of six apartments, one triple and the others quad, with one RA as well.  The renovation will unite the two sides with single and double dorm rooms, a lounge on each floor, areas for studying and laundry facilities on the first floor.

Residence Life is also in the final stages of working with the Wilkes-Barre YMCA to gain back apartments there for on-campus housing. Swantek hopes to acquire all the apartments, which is 59 beds.

Wilkes previously had a 10-year lease with the YMCA      that allowed students the option of living in apartments in the Y as on-campus housing. There were double and quad apartments with a support staff of one RA. However when the lease expired in 2011, Residence Life declined to renew it and the YMCA leased the space to Radnor Property Group, which renovated the space and the floor above it into new apartments for students to rent as off-campus housing.

Swantek is hoping if the lease goes through to have the apartments in the Y be for all upperclassmen. The addition of Fortinsky Hall and the apartments in the YMCA will add to existing on-campus housing for upperclassmen, which includes University Towers, Weiss, Sullivan, Sterling and Rifkin halls.

Swantek said Fortinsky will house sophomores exclusively to create a sophomore success program. She explained that the program will help sophomores prepare for their junior year.

“First-year students, there’s a lot of attention put on first-year students because it’s your first time at a university, then juniors there’s a lot of emphasis because they need to get internships, or if they want to study abroad. And then your senior year, Career Services is a huge component of their senior year because they’re trying to get jobs,” Swantek said. “So what we want to do is really build on that programming so that students feel more comfortable around campus and really acclimate well to campus and Fortinsky will be geared toward that.”

Dean of Students Mark Allen said research shows the sophomore year can prove to be a vulnerable year because not as much attention is paid to them as much as freshmen.

“It’s a challenging year in the undergraduate experience because freshmen, although there’s a lot of adjustments that need to be made, there’s a considerable amount of attention that’s paid to that population and then once that year is over then there’s this impression that folks are pretty much on their own and the data would indicate that this can be a little bit troublesome,” Allen said. “Through our asking students to be on campus, again based on the

students to be on campus, again based on the research, the data would indicate that there is better retention overall of sophomore students if they are having a housing experience on campus.”

Allen explained the goal of requiring sophomores to reside on campus is to have more students become successful at persisting at college and achieving their goals.

Allen said residence life is continuing to work on programming specifically for sophomores based on the needs of the population. Some of the programming focuses on career development, making sure they are comfortable with their major and community-building activities.

“Oftentimes there’s a focus on career development at that particular phase of a student’s academic career, things like making sure students are comfortable with the major they’ve chosen because it’s a critical year to solidify that and for some sophomores they’re still moving from that undecided major to a traditional academic major,” Allen said. “Also specific community-building types of programming for sophomores living in residence halls and some of that would be determined collaboratively by the sophomores that are living there and experiencing living on campus.”

Allen thinks the experience of living on campus as sophomores will be a positive one.

“We feel given the developmental level of the traditional-age sophomore this will be a positive experience relative to the alternative of being out into the community,” Allen said.

More info on applying for on-campus housing can be found here.