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At home on campus
Apartment-like dorms added to Georgia Gwinnett

LAWRENCEVILLE - Georgia Gwinnett College bills itself as the first four-year, public college to reinvent higher education.

Now the Lawrenceville college is reinventing the dormitory.

The college's student housing is one of three major construction projects set to open in August. But there won't be any communal bathrooms in the apartment-like, 1,029-bed facility.

The residence halls will contain suites designed for four, six, eight or 12 students, who will each have a bedroom with a door they can close and lock. There will be a bathroom for every two bedrooms. The suites will also contain a kitchenette with a refrigerator, microwave and dishwasher and a common living area with furniture and a flat-screen, high-definition TV.

But the housing facility isn't being created just for students' comfort.

"The design of the current housing project is very specific to what we believe is needed for academic success," said Eddie Beauchamp, the college's vice president of business and finance.

Research shows the longer you can keep students on campus and engaged, the more students' rates of progression and graduation increase, Beauchamp said.

The suites have been designed to get students out of their bedrooms to commingle with their suitemates, Beauchamp said. The TVs in each suite's common area will meet educational as well as entertainment needs. The college is planning to allow students to access classroom technology, such as recordings of lectures, through the TVs. The college is also considering grouping students by discipline in the eight- and 12-bedroom suites.

It's not enough just to get students out of their bedrooms. Each floor of the student housing will have program space, designed to get students to interact with others in their hall.

Students will also be encouraged to become engaged in campus activities. Although the students will have a refrigerator, microwave and dishwasher, they won't have access to a stove or oven. This will provide incentive for students to get out of the residence hall, visit the student center and eat in the dining hall.

"Students need to learn how to move out and function on their own," said Beauchamp, adding that, by design, students who live on campus won't be able to be entirely self-sufficient in the dorms. "The education they get in the dorms is just as important as the education they get in the classroom."

Right now, the college plans to charge a monthly fee for the dorms, which can be paid with financial aid. Students will be asked to sign a yearlong lease.

About 400 students have signed up to live on campus next year.

"I am really excited about the dorms," said Cesar Puerto, 20. "I am excited to move in with friends and finally experience fully the college experience.

"With the addition of the dorms, the whole school is going to change," he added. "It's going to become a new campus again right before our eyes."

Homero Gonzalez, 20, said he is excited about the leaps the campus keeps taking.

"To think that two years ago we had the first real freshman class come in and now we are turning into a 24-hour campus is just mind blowing," he said. "The construction feels like magic since everyday I come to campus I see something different on the buildings that are under construction."

As the president of the Organization of Latin American Students and a Student Government Association senator, Gonzalez said he knows the college will face challenges as it moves to a 24-hour campus, but he's excited to face the challenges.

"By the time the dorms are opened I will be a senior," he said. "I started my freshman year here so I definitely want to live in the dorms since I think that is a major part of going off to college, and since I never left town to go to college, I really don't want to miss the opportunity to live in them."