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Remodeled hall makes BSU students’ lives easier

Bemidji State University senior Alyssa Shanda uses a study area on the second floor of Birch Hall on Monday afternoon. Birch Hall reopened after undergoing major renovations. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – For the first time in 16 months Bemidji State University students were able to enter Birch Hall, unloading their futons, lofting their beds and enjoying the updated amenities and cozy feel.

“I’ve been here since 2000 so this is definitely going to be neat to see how (students) react to the space,” seventh-year Residence Hall Director Ayleen Leonhardt said.

The whole building received a $6 million facelift, which began in May 2010. From entranceway to a lobby area complete with a fireplace surrounded by new furniture for students, the residence hall is ready for students. Students and their parents who moved into the dorm over the weekend were pleased to see the addition of an elevator, making it a lot easier to haul furniture to the top floor.

The dorm also has upgraded bathrooms on each floor, with enclosed rooms making up the stalls, allowing for more privacy and the ability for the bathrooms to function as co-ed. Leonhardt said that the idea came from a student panel request before construction started.

The second- and third-floor wings are now connected by a walkway and a lounge area that can be shared by residents on either end.

 “To have the two floors shared is great,” Leonhardt said. “I think the RAs are ready to combine their floor programming.”

Senior Ryan Hagerty, assistant resident director in Birch Hall, said the walkways make a huge difference in navigating from one side to the other.

For fifth-year senior resident advisor Kyle Schwartz, the opportunity to move to Birch Hall was nice because he was intrigued about the renovations and looking for a change in scenery.

“Once I heard Birch (Hall) was reopening I was interested in coming back just to see what it was like,” he said.

Much of the BSU campus shared Schwartz’s interest in Birch Hall, but Leonhardt said that non-residents of the dorm are excited because it will reopen the underground walkways that had been closed during construction.

Students who had lived in the dorm prior to construction were given first priority on retaining their old rooms. The dorm will be full of upperclassmen, making it a more appealing residence advisor job.

“Not saying freshmen are bad but they are in the learning stages and you deal with them a lot more,” Hagerty said. “Plus the location is hard to beat, you have Diamond Point right across the football field and you can watch the games right from the A-wing.”