Housing-Residence Life central office staff

Staff in the Department of Housing and Residence Life’s central office pose for a photo in front of their new location at the Living Learning Center.

Photographer: Kaitlin Jackson

Housing-Residence Life full staff

The more than 300 OHIO staff members and students employed in OHIO’s Department of Housing and Residence Life gather for a photo outside of one of the four new residence halls being opened this fall on the Athens Campus.

Photographer: Kaitlin Jackson

Phase I graphic

This graphic shows the names and addresses of the five buildings that were constructed as part of Phase I of OHIO’s Housing Development Plan.

Graphic courtesy of: Division of Student Affairs

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Housing and Residence Life boasts new name, new location and historic numbers

August is always a busy month for the office charged with overseeing student housing at Ohio University as resident assistants return to the Athens Campus and preparations are made to welcome the thousands of Bobcats who will reside in their new homes away from home. 

This August has been extraordinarily busy as that office ushers in a new academic year with a new name, a new central office, four new residence halls and some impressive housing numbers.

A change in name and location

Effective Aug. 1, the former Department of Residential Housing is now known as the Department of Housing and Residence Life. The name change is designed to better reflect the breadth of that office’s work and reunites the two primary functions of the department – the administration of and programming for the University’s student housing system.

The department’s name change took effect just two days before another significant change for its central office – its move from the ground floor of Chubb Hall on the College Green to the newly constructed Living Learning Center (LLC) opening this fall as part of Phase I of OHIO’s Housing Development Plan.

Led by the Division of Student Affairs and the Division of Finance and Administration, OHIO’s Housing Development Plan is an initiative designed to improve the residential experience and comprehensive living-learning environment on the Athens Campus. Phase I of that plan includes the construction of four new residence halls as well as the LLC and the addition of recreational and green space in the area to the north of the site on the southern end of the campus. Those new residence halls and the LLC will open when students return to campus later this month.

The first of its kind on the Athens Campus, the LLC stands at the center of the Phase I site and is physically connected to two of the new residence halls. The central office for the Department of Housing and Residence Life will occupy space on the LLC’s second floor. Housing and Residence Life staff moved into their new home, located at 111 S. Green Drive, the week of Aug. 3.

“We were out of space at Chubb Hall,” explained Pete Trentacoste, who has served as executive director of Housing and Residence Life since 2012. “Our space in that building couldn’t accommodate our entire central office, and we had students working at desks lining the halls. The move to the Living Learning Center will allow for some additional efficiency and will create some additional synergy in our operations.”

Trentacoste noted that the new location marks the first time that the department’s entire central office is being housed within a student living area, which he hopes will mean more efficient service to students as well as ample opportunities to engage with and receive feedback from students.

“Our office’s ability to see students and be seen by students will be raised significantly in this new location,” he said, noting that OHIO’s South Green is the largest green on the Athens Campus in terms of residence hall students.

Trentacoste explained that the LLC is a new venture in which the University is looking to bridge the gap between its living and learning environments by providing more academic initiatives within its residence halls. The first floor of the LLC, he said, houses two smart classrooms, which will be open for faculty visits during fall semester to allow OHIO’s educators to explore whether they’d like to offer their courses there. Trentacoste said the goal is to turn control of those classrooms over to the University Registrar for scheduling courses for spring semester. 

The LLC also offers the University an opportunity to bring needed services into the students’ living environment. 

Trentacoste noted that the first floor of the LLC also features two flex offices, which would allow service providers, such as academic advisors or counselors, to engage with students closer to their homes. Housing and Residence Life plans to conduct some needs assessment to determine the type of services students would be interested in receiving at the flex offices and then reaching out to providers to see if they’d be willing to offer hours there.

“It’s a new era in OHIO Housing and Residence Life,” Trentacoste said. “We strive to be a true partner in the academic mission of this University. We’re doing great work with Undergraduate Admissions and with retention. We have a 40-student-strong housing ambassador team that goes out there and markets on Admissions Days, talking about the OHIO housing experience and why they love it and Ohio University. And we’ve really tried to step our game in how we serve our students.”

A year of historic numbers

As the Department of Housing and Residence Life embraces its new name and settles into its new location, it is keenly focused on the two weeks that lie ahead. Fall semester 2015 will mark the opening of OHIO’s largest residence hall project as well as the welcoming of its largest on-campus residence hall population since the fall of 1970.

The opening of the four residence halls that comprise Phase I of the Housing Development Plan marks the completion of the largest residential housing boom to occur on the Athens Campus since the residence halls of Back South were opened in the fall of 1970. And, according to Trentacoste, as of last week, Housing and Residence Life is anticipating more than 8,400 students living on the Athens Campus this fall – second only to the fall of 1970 when more than 9,000 students lived in OHIO residence halls.

“This is really going to be a historic year for us,” Trentacoste said, noting that the housing capacity in its 43 traditional residence halls on the Athens Campus currently stands at about 8,600. 

This past weekend, Housing and Residence Life welcomed back to campus its network of resident assistants (RAs) and announced its theme, “Catalyst,” for the academic year. According to Trentacoste, there will be 303 student staff living in the residence halls employed on the Athens Campus this year, an increase from last year.

“We’re excited to be adding 29 new student positions this year,” Trentacoste said, adding that 32 of this year’s RAs will be living and working in the four new residence halls. Among the new student positions is assistant residence hall director, a leadership opportunity for students employed with Housing and Residence Life.

“Student employment is always an important thing for us,” Trentacoste explained. “The more students we can employ, the easier it is for more students to be able to afford to attend college.”

Trentacoste said the department is looking forward to more engagement with its student workforce, including its student leaders, now that its central office is located in the LLC. He noted that the second floor of the LLC will also house the Residents’ Action Council (tRAC), a registered student organization that serves as OHIO’s residence hall association. 

“We’ve completed our move, changed our name and are fully operational,” Trentacoste said. “Now we’re just looking forward to welcoming our student residents back to campus.”

Move-in for first-year students is scheduled for Aug. 20-21 and for returning students on Aug. 22. Fall semester begins Aug. 24.

The Division of Student Affairs is planning a grand opening celebration for its four new residence halls and the LLC on Saturday, Aug. 29. Details about this event, which will be open to the public, will be announced in Compass the first week of fall semester.

Office seeking faculty, staff volunteers to assist with move-in

Ohio University’s Division of Student Affairs and its Department of Housing and Residence Life have been busy finalizing plans for this year’s Go Green Team, members of the OHIO community who volunteer to help welcome the next generation of Bobcats to the Athens Campus on move-in days.

According to Pete Trentacoste, executive director of Housing and Residence Life, around 1,000 returning students have already signed up to help first-year students and their families physically move personal items into their residence halls. 

Information for Ohio University faculty and staff who are interested in volunteering to help with first-year student move-in is available at https://goo.gl/ntuqKb. OHIO employees who volunteer to help will not be physically moving students’ personal items; they will function in more of a meet-and-greet role.

Housing and Residence Life will hold a move-in orientation session for faculty and staff volunteers at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18, in room 130 of the Living Learning Center at 111 S. Green Drive. The deadline for OHIO employees to sign up to volunteer is Sunday, Aug. 16.