Ohio Wesleyan Creating New Home for First-Year Students
By Cole Hatcher
When Smith Hall opened in 1968, it was Ohio Wesleyan University’s first coed residence. When its newly renovated west tower reopens in August, Smith Hall will begin its second life as OWU’s home for incoming first-year students.
“What’s most exciting about Smith Hall is that from the very beginning (of the renovation planning) we’ve designed it for our first-year students,” said Brian Emerick, OWU’s director of residential life.
The building’s $31-million makeover is being completed in phases with Smith West reopening in time for fall semester. It will house 159 students. Smith East will be renovated over the next year and house 239 students when it reopens in fall 2021. The work is part of Ohio Wesleyan’s Residential Renewal project, which includes the construction of a new 126-bed senior student apartment complex scheduled to be finished in May.
Helping to Create Connections
Emerick said freshmen moving into the five-story Smith West tower next month will enjoy a large community kitchen, classroom space, a second-floor gaming area (featuring foosball, bubble hockey, etc.), study lounges and community lounges on every floor, and the Residential Life Late Night Desk, which will help OWU’s newest students with questions and concerns.
Smith Hall also will feature some spaces that all students use – including its 24-hour dining facility (set to reopen in October) and a new workout room (set to open in August 2021), Emerick said.
“The other common spaces are designed to pull first-year students out of their room and into spaces where they can connect with the other students living on their floor,” he said. “The addition of the classroom space to the residence hall furthers our commitment to creating space on the west side of campus where students both live and learn together.”
When Smith Dining Hall reopens, it will add a new patio and grill adding outdoor dining opportunities for all students. And in addition to Smith East’s workout room, Emerick said, it also will include a fully equipped video gaming room when it reopens next year.
‘Meaningful Friendships and Memories’
First-year students residing in Smith Hall will live in double rooms furnished with two dressers and extra-long twin beds, a desk and desk chair, and an armoire closet. The building will feature floors that are coed by room as well as floors that are single-gender. All of its community restrooms will feature fully private showers and toilets. In addition, study rooms will be available on every floor, accommodating both individual and group study.
Dwayne Todd, OWU’s vice president for student engagement and success and dean of students, said the building will help new students meet and connect with their peers, as they make friends and build support systems to help them persist to graduation.
“We are excited about the enhanced opportunities Smith Hall will provide for our first-year students,” said Todd, Ph.D. “The building has been designed to enable ample opportunities for social interaction while providing the comfort of privacy when needed, and we have created spaces that allow for the integration of students’ academic and social lives within their living environment.
“I believe Smith Hall will truly be a place where first-year students can develop meaningful friendships and memories as they begin their time at OWU,” he said.
A Presidential Legacy
Smith Hall was named in honor of Ohio Wesleyan’s 11th president, Elden Smith, and his wife, Elizabeth “Betty” Nilson Smith. Both, now deceased, were OWU graduates, with the classes of 1932 and 1936, respectively.
When the OWU Board of Trustees voted to bestow the honor, Smith Hall became the building to be named in honor of people still serving the University. It also became the first residence hall to have air-conditioning.
Elden Smith served as OWU’s president from 1962 to 1968. The Welch and Hayes residence halls also were built during his tenure.