If you haven't been back to St. Ambrose for a few years, you might want to pick up a map when next you're under the oaks.
Since 2000, five new residence halls have been built and another remodeled.
The newest, North Hall, welcomed students for the first time last month. Thanks to the mild winter, the building was finished ahead of schedule and under budget. And when it welcomed its first residents in early August, North became the fifth residence hall located between Lombard and Locust along Ripley Street, on what is known as Residence Row.
North Hall has space for 204 students and brings on-campus capacity to 1,700.
The additional beds help accommodate a large class of incoming first-year students. That's a result of what Meg Halligan, SAU's assistant vice president of admissions, called a "perfect storm."
"We have state-of-the-art residence life facilities, winning athletic teams, a great fine arts department and award-winning academics," Halligan said. "When potential students visit, whether it's their first time on campus with their parents or they've come to visit a sibling or friend, when they leave they are usually very excited about the housing opportunities."
Halligan said word of mouth, "People telling their Ambrosian story," remains the university's best recruiting tool.
"Students are in the classroom for about 15 hours a week and the rest of the time we want them to be somewhere they can socialize, exercise, learn and live out our mission," Halligan said.
First-year physical therapy major Halle Lewis, of East Moline, Ill., visited SAU for the first time in August 2011, and immediately fell in love with the school-with Residence Row a key part of the attraction. "I liked the suite style dorms a lot and every building seemed really clean and nice," she said. "Seeing the dorms made me excited to live here."
A high school honor student, Lewis lives in North Hall as part of an academic community. Hers is just one of a several organized themed housing groups on campus this year, such as the spiritual community and international community located in West Hall.
West, which opened in 2008, offers a mix of residence rooms and classrooms. It followed Hagen (2000), Bechtel (2004) and Franklin (2005). Meanwhile, the interior of Rohlman Hall, originally built as East Hall in 1959, was gutted and entirely modernized in 2001. To accommodate more hungry residents, the Cosgrove Hall cafeteria also has been expanded twice since 2005, including last summer.
Even alumni are excited by the ongoing improvements.
"I'm amazed," said Matt Glick '06. "Every time I come to campus there's a new building. It makes me really proud to be a Bee."