In Sept. 1873, The Ohio State University first opened its doors with a single building and an inaugural class of 25 students. Since then, the university has grown to include over 600 buildings and close to 60,000 students on its Columbus campus alone.
This fall, those numbers have grown with the debut of four new residence halls: Blackburn House, Busch House, Houston House and Nosker House. This new construction headlines the completion of the final phase of the $396 million North Residential District Transformation Project. In addition, the project included the North Recreational Center, two dining facilities, Curl Market and Traditions at Scott, as well as renovations to Drackett Tower, Jones Tower and Taylor Tower. In total, the eight new residence halls are accommodating around 3,900 more students, creating much needed space just in time to house new and returning students for the implementation of Ohio State’s new on-campus living requirement for second-year students. First-year engineering student Brian Wynne isn’t one to complain about the new additions to campus.
“I like living [in Houston House] a lot. I haven’t had any problems, I’ve met lots of nice people and it’s been a very comfortable place to live,” Wynne says. “I can have privacy in my room or be social in the common rooms or second floor, which has big rooms for people of all floors to hang out in.”
The new additions and living requirement provide more than just improved social and dining spaces.
“[The Office of Student Life] looked at the research and found that students who live on campus have better graduation and retention rates,” says David Isaacs, Communications and Media Relations Manager for the university’s Office of Student Life. “Because we recognized that students who live on campus have more connectivity and greater success rates, we realized that having those second year students live on campus would make our second-year outreach programs much more effective.”
These programs take shape in the form of the Second Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP), which was formed to promote greater student retention and involvement rates. According to a 2013 survey given to all residence hall students by STEP, 84 percent of respondents attributed their connectedness to the university to their housing situation. The physical design of the infrastructure around north campus reflects this increased interconnectivity.
“Outdoor space is just as important as indoor space,” says Isaacs. “We were very deliberate in incorporating places for students to hang out and places for those STEP groups to meet outside. Some of the halls have meeting spaces on the inside with openings to outdoor spaces, all of which was integrated so that there was that kind of ability and flexibility [for activities].”
Although these renovations will now allow STEP to expand their events and programs, the benefits of the new facilities can be immediately felt by students and staff—even if they do not live in the area.
“It is nice to have new things on North Campus so we don’t have to come all the way back to South [Campus] to do them,” says Clay Jackson, a first-year resident of Mack Hall. “Although it isn’t a big change [for South Campus residents], it does help at times, especially for those who have a lot of classes and spend a lot of time on North Campus.”
Record-breaking numbers of first-year applications (49,388) as well as first-year enrollments (over 7,600 on the Columbus campus), have placed a high strain on residence halls in accommodating these larger numbers. Nevertheless, this new-look North Campus will be here to stay as it seeks to add its own legacy to the university’s storied history.