Over the summer of 2023, both Olson and Wengatz Halls underwent several renovations.
Renovations look different for each hall. In Wengatz, there was the major addition of the kitchen area, which had previously been just a community lounge.
Jacob Gerding, Wengatz Hall director, admitted that Wengatz residents used the kitchen facilities in Olson Hall during open hours, so it was decided that Wengatz should also have a kitchen of some sort. In previous years, there was a makeshift kitchen on the Second Center wing of Wengatz, nothing more than a closet containing a stove and a small sink.
“It wasn't safe — [There was] no ventilation, no sort of anything like that,” Gerding said. “So it was used pretty sparingly, but it was all that we had.”
In addition to the kitchen, the Wengatz common areas received a fresh coat of paint and new light fixtures, which made the space seem more bright, Gerding said.
The most major renovation to Wengatz Hall was the removal of the carpet in favor of bare concrete.
“I think it's been a much cleaner feeling because the carpets had been in that building for a very long time,” Gerding said. “So it feels cleaner, and I think the guys noticed that too.”
Olson Hall is next on the renovation list, with most of the major renovations to take place in summer 2024. These changes will be similar to those completed in Wengatz, including new paint in common areas and new flooring.
In the meantime, Diana Verhagen, Olson Hall director, made smaller changes to accommodate the large number of incoming students. Some of the wings’ lounge areas were converted into rooms, some even holding three students instead of the normal two in a room.
“When I was a student here, we also had [the] lounges as rooms,” Verhagen said. “I think they [have] periodically been used as rooms, just in seasons of high student numbers.”
The carpeting is to be removed from rooms during the summer as well. Due to a large number of visiting students on campus this summer, it might not be completed before students move in for the fall semester.
All of the windows in 134 rooms were replaced in Olson Hall. The project was finished shortly after the fall semester began, causing some interruption to Olson Hall residents.
“I know the window project took longer than we anticipated this summer and I'm just really thankful — the women of Olson have really had a lot of grace for me and for the workers who have been putting them in,” Verhagen said.
Looking to the future, both Gerding and Verhagen would like to see a bathroom renovation for Olson and Wengatz Halls, respectively. Gerding also hopes that the stairwells will be renovated to match the new spaces in Wengatz, revitalizing the space.
Both Verhagen and Gerding recognize the importance of dorm maintenance and the impact that the environment can have on students’ overall success.
“I think it could go either way — it could have a really positive impact on them in terms of their ability to study, their ability to feel a sense of safety at home and have a place where they can go back to after a long day of school,” Gerding said. “But it could also be a place that is counteractive to their success.”
Julia Hurlow, associate vice president for student development and director of residence life, oversees and collaborates with hall directors to ensure student care. During the 2022-23 school year, she worked with individual hall directors and proposed projects to improve various residence halls around campus.
Residence halls on campus are on a rotation for renovations and improvements, but there have been ongoing conversations about the renovations coming next summer to Olson Hall.
“I care a lot about the residential experience and want students to know they are welcome here,” Hurlow said.