University officials hope the new Juniper-Poplar residence hall, which opened at full-capacity this month, will help foster student involvement on campus and encourage students to graduate on time.
Juniper-Poplar was built to comply with a new USF requirement that mandates all First Time College (FTIC) students to live on campus.
“What we have found is students who live on campus are more successful,” said Dorie Paine, director of Housing and Residential Education.
Students who live with their parents in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties can submit a form exempting them from the policy.
Paine said that students who live on campus are more likely to graduate on time and at higher (academic) levels, while developing a deeper connection with the University and their graduating class.
Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall said the new residence hall is an exciting project.
“We really want to transform the residential hall experience so students live and learn together,” said Jennifer Meningall, vice president of Student Affairs.
The $65 million residence hall consists of two towers that have 1,050 beds.
Paine said nearly 70 students live on every floor. The rooms are more spacious compared to others on campus, she said.
The seven-floor Juniper-Poplar is the largest residence hall on campus. The Juniper tower houses only FTIC students.
The Poplar tower houses both FTIC students and those living in Living Learning Communities (LLC). LLCs are unique areas or floors designed specifically for students having the same major or academic program. Business, Engineering and Honors, for instance, are all LLCs located in the Poplar tower.
Amenities such as a dining hall that is open to all students, a convenience store, study areas and a Starbucks aim to create a sense of community among the students, Paine said.
There is also a laundry room with 30 washers and 30 dryers as well as trash chutes on each floor for easier waste disposal.
The hall also has three classrooms with DVD players, new computers, audiovisual equipment and document cameras. These will be utilized for history classes, honors seminars and some University Experience courses, Paine said.
A live-in faculty member as well as on-site advisers are also available for guidance.
Freshman Torrey Taylor, who is majoring in business, said she enjoys the arrangement.
“(Poplar) is a community of students who are focusing on the same major, living and working together both inside the classroom and outside of it,” she said.
Paine said students in Poplar live on certain floors based on their majors. The grouping of students with the same major helps students acclimate to the college atmosphere and helps ease the intimidation and stress that is associated with starting college, Taylor said.
Freshman Christina Soto, a business major and Taylor’s roommate, said it would be harder to adapt to college life without an environment like Juniper-Poplar.
“I feel there’s more of a sense of unity in the Living Learning Community,” Soto said. “It’s less intimidating because you live with people with the same area of interest.”
Though not by major, students in Juniper are grouped based on their FTIC classification.
Having FTIC students living together helps them make better connections academically, Meningall said.