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University Housing anticipates more inclusive community with new residence hall

When the University’s newest residence hall opens for students this fall, there will be more than just basic living facilities available for residents. The new wing, Nugent Hall, located at 207 E. Gregory Dr., will also be home to students with disabilities supported by the Beckwith program, part of the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES). University Housing hopes to be heading in a new direction in community-building.

“This is the first new residence hall in more than 40 years, and we’re very excited to have it,” said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing. “It’s going to be a very inclusive environment.”

The first floor of Nugent Hall, named after DRES founder Timothy J. Nugent, contains suite-style rooms equipped with automatic doors, adjustable furniture and medical beds that still hold a closer resemblance to typical residence hall beds than hospital ones.

Pat Malik, director of the Beckwith program, said one of the other perks of the new hall is its spacious layout.

“The hallways are wide and big enough for two power wheelchairs to pass by each other,” she said.

The Beckwith program specializes in accommodating students with severe physical disabilities who need living assistance, Malik said. The program also supports other students with disabilities who are unsure of how to transition into University Housing.

Previously, the program was housed at Beckwith Residence Hall, 201 E. John St., which originally opened in 1981. With its relocation to Nugent Hall, the program is now also being incorporated into University Housing, Malik said.

At Nugent, the living experience for Beckwith-supported students will be much different from the previous building on John Street. “It’s going to be brand new, much more high-tech,” Malik added.

Ruby said the new residence hall aims to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, and also contains larger elevators to hold multiple wheelchairs.

Additionally, Nugent Hall bears the distinction of being the first, and so far only, university residence hall in the country to be equipped with SureHands technology, Malik said. A patient lift system used in private homes and businesses, SureHands will allow students with disabilities to move more independently around their rooms, particularly from the beds to the bathrooms.

Beckwith-supported students at Nugent will also have access to University Housing’s cafeterias, including the new Ikenberry Dining Hall in the Student Dining and Residential Programs (SDRP) building.

“Students here can now use any dining hall and have a meal plan,” Malik said.

Before, Beckwith-supported students would have to return to John Street to eat their residence hall meals, which were provided three times a day, Malik said.

While Beckwith-supported students will be living in rooms on the first floor, students who do not necessarily need the support of Beckwith but want more accessible living space will have the option of choosing one of six transition rooms on the second floor, Malik said. The top three floors will also be open as a typical residence hall for the upcoming school year.

Brittany Kawa, freshman in Education, said she is excited to be staying at the new residence hall in the fall.

“The dining hall is supposed to be fabulous, so I am beyond excited,” Kawa said.

Kawa said she was aware the first floor of Nugent Hall was reserved for students with disabilities after taking a disabilities class last spring, and is looking forward to having a unique living experience at Nugent.

“To be honest, I think this is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that the University treats all students with equality,” she said.

Ruby said one of the goals for Nugent Hall is to build a strong sense of community.

“It’ll happen around mealtimes,” Ruby said. “All of Ikenberry Commons will be eating together.

“Everyday interactions go a long way towards making friends and building a community.”

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