Feature Story

October 19, 2021 | By Sarah Jonassen ’22

Mariam Samkharadze ’25 says she likes living in Smith Hall, Ohio Wesleyan’s newly renovated residence hall for first-year students. “It is like we are together in this,” she says of the Class of 2025’s college transition. (Photo by David Shakarashvili ’24)

Smith Hall

Ohio Wesleyan Students Settling into Newly Renovated First-Year Residence Hall

She may not know it, but Mariam Samkharadze ’25 couldn’t give a better description of her new home in Ohio Wesleyan University’s Smith Hall.

“My favorite thing about living in Smith Hall is that first-year students live together,” said Samkharadze of Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. “It is like we are together in this, and there are people who got our back. It is never lonely here.”

The idea of creating such a welcoming first-year community guided the two-year renovation of Smith Hall, which fully reopened in August, said Brian Emerick, director of Residential Life. 

Brian Emerick

Spaces to Connect

“We want students to go out into the common spaces and meet people as they transition into college,” Emerick said. “First-year students generally don’t have the same kind of support network of peers as they would at home, so we have a lot of spaces for them to use and connect with one another.”

These spaces include a large second-floor lounge, lots of shared study areas, a 12-student classroom, a fitness center, a video gaming room, and a separate gaming nook featuring bubble hockey and foosball. 

Des Perry ’25 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said he is especially excited about spending time in Smith Hall’s community spaces.

“Whenever I need a quiet area to study or do homework, I can just go to one of the many study areas on my floor,” Perry said. “For nights when I want to get a big group of friends together, we can just go to the common area. It's a great place to socialize with its wall-mounted TV and adjustable couches.”

He also appreciates the options for privacy. “One of the things I love the most is the design of each floor,” he said. “The private showers and bathrooms make it so I am always as comfortable as possible when I need to use those spaces.”

‘A New Look’ 

Built in 1968, Smith Hall underwent a complete renovation as part of OWU’s Residential Renewal initiative. All of the building’s 398 residents are first-year students.

The residence hall features both single-gender and coed floors, with almost all students residing in double-occupancy rooms that include extra-long twin beds, desks and desk chairs, dressers, and an armoire closet. The building also includes a free community laundry room with lots of windows and an adjacent study area.

To help ensure the new students get their questions answered, Smith Hall also houses a staffed late-night Residential Life desk, where students can even borrow a vacuum cleaner and cooking equipment.

Maya Koob ’25 of Hilliard, Ohio, said the building is already starting to feel like home.

“I think Smith Hall is a wonderful place to live,” Koob said. “It’s very homey, and I feel like it was a great place to adjust to living by yourself for the first time.”

‘24/7 Dining’

Though students are able to cook in Smith Hall’s second-floor community kitchen, the building also includes OWU’s 24-hour dining facility, where most students eat each morning and evening.

The dining hall also received a face-lift during the renovation and a new outdoor patio space was added.

Jazz Zimmerman ’25 of Vermilion, Ohio, appreciates the convenience of in-house dining.

“I enjoy the 24-hour dining room because my schedule can vary, and it's nice to be able to stop by the dining hall at any time to get food if I need to,” Zimmerman said.

OWU’s Residential Renewal

Ohio Wesleyan has invested more than $50 million in its Residential Renewal initiative over the past two years.

In addition to creating the Smith Hall living and learning village for first-year students, the University this fall also opened Bradford Milligan Hall, an apartment complex for senior-students. The apartments enable seniors to become more independent as they prepare for life after graduation.

As fall semester opens, two-thirds of OWU students are living in halls or houses that are new or fully renovated within the past decade. These include six new Small Living Units (each housing up to a dozen students who share common interests), a new 27-bed Honors House, and new Butler A. Jones House of Black Culture. 

Learn more about all of Ohio Wesleyan’s student-living opportunities at owu.edu/ResLife.