SCOOBA — Construction is wrapping up on a new 147-bed, three-story residence hall on East Mississippi Community College’s Scooba campus and the facility’s inaugural group of students will move in this January.
EMCC sophomore Leija Ray hopes she is among the students selected to occupy the 42,636-square-foot building located across the street from the Dottie Smith Family Center for Instrumental Music Education.
“Everybody is excited about the dorms because they are new and have a lot more amenities to offer,” Ray said.
A Dec. 10 ribbon cutting for the building was attended by area legislators, supervisors from counties within EMCC’s district and officials from local K-12 schools. EMCC administrators were also on hand, as were members of the college’s Board of Trustees.
“The addition of this dorm is an important milestone for this college,” EMCC President Dr. Scott Alsobrooks said. “It was badly needed.”
Each floor of the brick residence hall features two wings separated by a main lobby for a total of six wings. Each wing has its own keyless entry system and students will only be able to access the wing in which they reside.
Initial plans call for separate wings for men and women inside the residence hall, but it could be dedicated for use by men only or women only.
“If we need to we could have five halls for girls and one hall for guys,” EMCC Dean of Students for the Scooba Campus Tony Montgomery said. “It will depend on where there is the greatest need.”
Most of the dorm rooms will accommodate two students, with a couple of sole occupancy rooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Each room will be equipped with a bathroom.
There are two combination conference rooms and computer labs, as well as two study areas. The second-floor lobby is set up an entertainment area with televisions, couches and lounge chairs where students can also socialize or play games.
A kitchen located off the lobby is equipped with a refrigerator and a microwave and there is a breakfast bar with stools where students can eat.
The building is located at the site of the original Sullivan-Windham Field, which closed in 2011 when the college’s new state-of-the art stadium opened. The building that housed the old ticket booth and public restrooms has been renovated. The building consists of two large rooms separated by a covered breezeway.
One of the rooms will house a laundromat, while possible uses for the old ticket booth include a recreation area for students and a space for outdoor dining.
“That is a historical building that holds an important piece of our college history and it was important to us that it be repurposed for use by future generations of EMCC students,” Alsobrooks said.
The residence hall will also include ample parking spaces. Upgrades will be made to Virginia’s Garden, an outdoor space dedicated to the late EMCC football coach Robert Victor “Bull” Sullivan that is located adjacent to the building that will house the laundromat. Possible improvements include the addition of picnic tables and other outdoor seating.
“We don’t have anything else that is nice as this on campus,” Montgomery said of the new residence hall. “We think this will be an incentive for those staying in the dorm to maintain high grades and make sure they don’t have any disciplinary infractions.”
To qualify for housing in the new residence hall, there will be academic requirements similar to the Women’s Honors Hall and the Men’s Honors Hall, where incoming freshmen must have earned a 21 or higher on their ACT. One possibility is that students will have to maintain a certain GPA level to remain in the building, although those details are still being ironed out.
A new residence hall has long been on EMCC’s bucket list. The newest dorm, Women’s Honors Hall, was built in 2002. Two of the men’s dorms, Lauderdale Hall and Noxubee Hall, were constructed in 1948.
Student housing is only available on EMCC’s Scooba campus, where there are six residence halls and numerous Katrina-style cottages that houses members of the college’s softball, baseball, rodeo and men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Montgomery said in addition to increasing the number of beds available for incoming students, the new residential hall will also serve as a recruiting tool.
“This new facility is as nice as any at other community colleges in the state,” he said. “In order to remain competitive, we know we are going to have to continue this trend of constructing new residence halls.”
LPK Architects, P.A., designed the building constructed by Century Construction. A state allocation funded $5.5 million of the $11.5 million, with EMCC issuing a local bond of $6 million to pay the remaining cost.
Demand for on-campus housing has exceeded capacity for years, with a waiting list of between 70 and 90 applicants each year.
Montgomery said plans in the college’s master facilities plan call for construction of another residence hall as soon as is possible, with Lauderdale Hall only used in the interim if additional beds are needed.
“Lauderdale will kind of be our safety net until another residence hall is built and then it will be torn down,” Montgomery said.
Renovations are underway at Noxubee Hall to upgrade the bathrooms.
Sky Wilson, a freshman enrolled in EMCC’s Funeral Services Technology program, resides in Lauderdale Hall.
“I am really hoping I can get into the new residence hall,” Wilson said. “There are four bedrooms and one bathroom to a suite in Lauderdale Hall. In the new building, you won’t have as many students sharing a suite.”