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Home sweet home

UCLA Today Staff

     With the new school year beginning this week, thousands of freshmen, transfer and returning students who call the campus home are just settling into their new campus digs. For nearly 1,000 students, make that brand, spanking, new digs.   

Simple design and clean lines mark the towers in the new Deneve housing complex.        After three years of construction, UCLA Housing has opened the doors to DeNeve Plaza, its newest addition to the northwest campus student housing community.

     The initial phase of the project — four four-story residential buildings situated around a central coutryard — was wrapped up just days before welcoming its first occupants last weekend.  

     "It's just very exciting," said Suzanne Seplow, area director for DeNeve Plaza. "Students and staff are extremely eager to be a part of the complex at DeNeve."

     The four beige and teal-accented wood-frame buildings, located between Gayley Avenue to the southwest and DeNeve and Charles E. Young drives to the north and east, respectively, house furnished double and triple rooms, each with private bathrooms. Ethernet and cable television connections and new cardkey-access locks are some of the amenities residents will enjoy. Each of the buildings — named Cedar Bluff, Dogwood Glen, Evergreen Pass and Fir Grove, after campus trees — also offers centrally located laundry facilities and vending machines, as well as lounges, on each floor. And

View from the top of Sproul Hall down to DeNeve Plaza.   there are eight apartments for professional staff and faculty-in-residence.

     A commons building, known as the podium building, boasting two additional residential wings, is tentatively scheduled to be finished summer 2001. The DeNeve Plaza complex, a unique cluster of living, meeting, computing, recreational and dining spaces, is similar to Sunset Village, an  undergraduate student housing project that was completed in 1992.

     The new residential buildings, which together provide more than 1,250 student bed spaces, are a welcome addition to campus housing, where, over the last few years, residents have had to triple up in rooms to accommodate the rising demand for on-campus housing.

     More than just a place to sleep, DeNeve Plaza reinforces the Office of Residential Life's goal to make the residential complex places to learn as well as live.

     DeNeve was specifically designed to house a living-learning community, with an inviting courtyard setting for discussions, computer labs, a state-of-the-art

Workers loaded with new mattresses form an "ant" trail into DeNeve Plaza.   auditorium, meeting and study rooms, a cable television studio and conference facilities. 

     "We continue to see students wanting to be part of a community and participating in programs and activities provided," observed Jack Gibbons, associate residential life director. Because students want academics integrated into their living environment, organizers continually try to find linkages. So students participate in academic support and skills workshops in the complexes, join in college bowl competitions and live among faculty-in-residence.

     "It's great to participate in an intellectual community and to interact with students outside of the classroom," said history Professor Jose Moya, who has lived in Sunset Village for the last few years with his family. He is one of three faculty members moving to DeNeve Plaza this year.

     Said fellow DeNeve resident and education faculty member Robert Rhoads, who has researched and written about student life and culture: "It's really a more holistic, more integrated view of the whole undergraduate experience.

     "Too often, students learn in their classes, then go back to their residence halls. Living and learning add an academic punch," said Rhoads, a new faculty member who proposed a faculty-in-residence program at Michigan State, where he previously taught. "It's really an effort to get faculty and staff more involved in their out-of-class experience." 

     Some classes are held right outside students' front doors.

     This year, an interdisciplinary, yearlong general education cluster course for first-year students is being taught at the Northwest Campus Auditorium by several professors, including English Professor Frederick Burwick, another faculty-in-residence. Both Moya and Rhoads expect to teach lower-division courses

The new DeNeve Plaza residential complex.   in the new 450-seat lecture auditorium in the podium building once it is completed. Some discussion sections also will be held at Covel Commons in Sunset Village.    

     Faculty-in-residence and student staff also try to find less formal ways to integrate academics into student's social lives. Successful programs include casual discussions about research and field trips. Moya, who specializes in Latin American history, teaches a salsa dancing class, for which he provides a historical context for the music.   

     While DeNeve Plaza has the ambience of a close-knit community, architects Bahr, Vermeer and Haecker also tried to connect DeNeve to the larger campus community physically and visually. For example, the DeNeve buildings share a color scheme and some design elements with Sunset Village. And Bruin Walk, the main pedestrian byway that leads from the northeast part of campus all the way to Strathmore Avenue where the northwest campus begins, is being extended through the center of DeNeve Plaza to Gayley Avenue.

     Housing officials are also making every effort to connect DeNeve Plaza to adjacent Dykstra Hall, UCLA's oldest high-rise residential hall built in 1959. Part of Dykstra was demolished to make room for the new complex. A bridge has been designed to link Dykstra to the De Neve Plaza podium building. But until the podium building  opens, central services for DeNeve and Dykstra, such as the mailroom and front desk, will be located in Dykstra.

     "We want Dykstra to be part of this community as much as possible," said Angela Marciano, special projects manager for Housing Administration.

     DeNeve will also ease overcrowding in the other campus buildings, substantially reducing the ratio of students in triple rooms.

     The DeNeve Plaza housing project was constructed under the UCLA Student Housing Master Plan, which guarantees two years of housing for freshmen and one year for transfer students.

     About 93% of incoming freshmen live on campus while 70% of second-year students — an all-time high — are returning to on-campus housing, said Gibbons.

Faculty-in-resident Robert Rhoads poses with his belongings, stored in Dykstra Hall, before moving to his apartment in DeNeve .   He suspects more and more students opt to return, in large part, because of the Ethernet and cable TV connections and revamped dining services, all top priorities with students.

     While DeNeve adds much needed residential space, the anticipated surge of Tidal Wave II students on campus over the next decade will prove an additional challenge, assuming the guarantees in the Student Housing Master Plan remain in place. A campus task force chaired by Sam Morabito, associate vice chancellor,  Business and Financial Services, is revisiting the provisions of the master plan. But it is quite clear that additional undergraduate housing will be needed, officials said.

     Other housing construction projects are on the horizon, including a 2000-bed  complex for single graduate students to be located in the southwest campus north of Lot 32. In addition, three other high-rise residence halls, all built in the 1960s, will be refurbished in the next few years.

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