Ball State administrators and students gathered by North Residence Hall’s fire pit Sept. 25 to celebrate the neighborhood that includes the Johnson Complex, North Residence Hall, North West Residence Hall and North Dining.
In the middle of Family Weekend, Vice President for Student Affairs Ro-Anne Royer Engle said the residence halls have become much more than just a place to live. While she was a hall director for the Schmidt/Wilson hall of the Johnson Complex, she said she saw the dormitories provide new opportunities for students.
“Every day, I got to bear witness to what a welcoming, engaging, diverse and fun living-learning community could do for students,” Royer Engle said. “It is a transformative experience where friendships of a lifetime are formed, interests are discovered and we learn what it truly means to live in community.”
North West Residence Hall, which opened this semester, is home to the humanities, music and education living-learning communities. North Hall hosts science, technology, engineering and math students.
Brianna Cole, senior animation major and president of Ball State’s Residence Hall Association, said she has made friendships with passionate peers in North Hall. She said the living-learning communities offer support that can be helpful for residents.
“I love our educational resources and community spaces and enjoy meeting new people pursuing majors different from mine,” Cole said. “From resources to top-notch living spaces and modern amenities, and a cozy living environment, the North neighborhood is quickly becoming a fast favorite of Ball State students.”
The renovation of the north neighborhood began in summer 2013 with the renovation of the Johnson Complex, and LaFollette’s demolition began in 2017. The Brayton/Clevenger wing of the LaFollette Complex is currently still standing. North West Residence Hall opened its doors for the fall 2021 semester, which signified the completion of the renovation.
“Today’s ribbon-cutting ceremony signifies the successful completion of a long-term plan, a plan to reshape the north side of our campus in accordance with our long-term campus master plan,” said Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns.
Mearns said he has shared the progress of the campus master plan and remodeling of the north neighborhood at different events with Ball State alumni, some of whom lived in the LaFollette Complex while they were students.
“When I tell them we’re going to demolish LaFollette … there’s usually a wistful sigh that goes through the crowd,” Mearns said. “Then, I show them the photographs of what LaFollette looks like today and the renderings of these buildings and I ask a question: How many of you would like to go back and live in LaFollette as opposed to one of these residence halls?”
Mearns said he thinks two people have told him they would want to live in LaFollette again from a pool of about 4,000 alumni.
Allison Ryan, Botsford/Swinford hall director, said the unveiling of the north neighborhood is “a period of innovation and excitement for students.”
Alan Hargrave, associate vice president and director of Housing and Residence Life emeritus who retired in June 2021, came to the ribbon-cutting ceremony to see a dream of his be accomplished.
Hargrave worked at Ball State for 35 years and said he watched the transformation of many residence halls, including the construction of Park and Kinghorn, the renovations of Studebaker East, DeHority and the Johnson Complex, as well as the building of the new North and North West residence halls.
“My fingerprint is on a lot of it, so I’m really proud of the experience students get from it,” he said.
One feature of the north neighborhood that Hargrave said he appreciates is the outdoor space and walking trails between the Johnson Complex and new residence halls.
“If you start to look at the inside of the building, that’s one thing, but nobody used to walk through here, and now, why wouldn’t you want to come through here and hang out, or sit on the swing, or hang your hammock? — it really connects all of the buildings in a really nice pedestrian community kind of way,” Hargrave said. “The outdoor space, thanks to the facilities planning and grounds folks, makes this a very livable place inside and out.”