New students, meet your dorm. New dorm, meet your students.
Clothes, TVs, blankets, pillows and other must-haves were hauled through the open doors of the brand new freshman residence hall Wednesday morning at the University of Alaska Southeast as the dorm opened to residents for the first time. Ninety-five students are registered to live in the hall in its inaugural semester; as of late Wednesday morning, about half of them had moved in, some with parents in tow, others already flying solo.
Palmer’s Maddie Cullers and Anchorage’s Sammie Shephard are new roommates who just met Wednesday morning while moving into the suite-style hall. Shephard’s mom was helping her move in, but Cullers tackled her first day at college on her own, which she said was “overwhelming” at first.
“Now I’m here I’m pretty OK with it,” she said.
Both women chose UAS because of its small, friendly feel. Neither had heard a lot about the university but fell in love with it during campus visits.
“I like small,” Cullers said. “When I heard about this, I was like, wow, perfect.”
Shephard said she considered her hometown University of Alaska Anchorage but wanted to move farther away while staying in state.
“I felt UAA was a commuter school, not such a homey place,” Shephard said.
UAS Director of Campus Life Eric Scott said he hopes excellent student experiences in the new residence hall lead to even more freshmen in coming years. The hall has 110 student beds and is not full for the semester. He said more students are supposed to move in for the spring semester.
Even without all the new beds full, this crop of freshmen wouldn’t have fit in the old residence hall — Banfield Hall has only about 80 beds, freshman adviser Nathan Bodenstadt said.
The new hall boasts huge picture windows with views of Auke Lake and the surrounding mountains. A common area, closed-off study spaces and a meeting room offer different environments within the building. The rooms are suite-style, with two sets of two roommates sharing a bathroom and a kitchen. The building was designed by MRV Architects.
The hall’s first inhabitants come to the Auke Bay campus from across the country. Most are from Alaska but others hail from about 20 other states, including Missouri, Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Washington, Oregon and California.
Freshman Dallin Jones moved to Alaska sight-unseen for the biology program at UAS. His friend and roommate moved from Boise with him.
As for Alaska, freshmen flocked from all over the state to UAS this year. A group of six young men from Scammon Bay took a long, multi-leg flight from their Western Alaska community of 474 people to move in. With a graduating class of only 19, almost a third of the town’s seniors are attending UAS and living in the residence hall.
UAS recruiters came to Scammon Bay and “talked to us and convinced us to come,” Norman Charlie said.
“Well, asked us to come,” his cousin and best friend, Jace Aguchak, said. All six of the Scammon Bay students are cousins and close friends, he said. They’re rooming together in two of the new hall’s suites.
“We all decided we should go to school together,” Aguchak said.
He said he’s majoring in marine biology and is most excited about the adult responsibilities of college.
“I want to see how I can fare without my mother,” he said, laughing.
UAS staff made a point to recruit students in rural Alaska communities this year, Chancellor John Pugh said. Staff also spent two months traveling across Washington, Oregon and California, recruiting in those states.
“We really need to get more freshmen from Outside,” he said.
The school is focusing on Outside recruitment because of a dip in graduating Alaska seniors, Pugh said. Although UAS has “more and more full-time students,” fewer college-bound Alaskans and fewer students in the school’s Master of Arts in Teaching program means UAS is taking a slight enrollment hit, he said.
Enrollment for the fall semester is still going on, but the school already has about 2,700 students signed up. Another 1,000 will probably enroll before classes start Sept. 2, Institutional effectiveness manager Brad Ewing said. He anticipates enrollment will be right on par with last year’s.
Thirty-nine students from Juneau and Douglas are signed up to live in the residence hall this year. Juneau resident Rachel Kindred, who was helping her son Tim Wilson move in, said she thought the residence hall was a good first step to Wilson being on his own.
Wilson graduated in May from Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School. Kindred said he hadn’t always wanted to attend college, but “the last two years at Yaakoosge helped him decide he wanted to.”
“He really responded well to (the school) and meeting kids in college,” she said while Wilson filled out paperwork with a student staff member.
Kindred said she had just signed her youngest child up for preschool and was now dropping her oldest at college.
“I’m planning my nervous breakdown for this weekend,” she said, laughing.
• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.