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MSU dedicates new downtown campus; looking at graduate student housing

MERIDIAN and STARKVILLE — Mississippi State University has formally dedicated its new downtown campus for Mississippi State University-Meridian, made possible through a contribution from The Riley Foundation. And, the university announced it is looking to offer housing to its graduate students on the Starkville campus.

To renovate a historical landmark to house MSU-Meridian’s Division of Business, Meridian-based The Riley Foundation donated $6.2 million. The gift included the Newberry Building, a four-story structure adjacent to the MSU Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts.

In addition to expanding the Meridian campus, the gift will enable the university to strengthen its presence in the city center.

“Our partnership with The Riley Foundation is enhancing MSU’s educational opportunities in Meridian, Lauderdale County and across east Mississippi,” MSU president Mark E. Keenum said during the dedication ceremony. “Meridian’s new downtown campus provides a state-of-the-art space for our expanding student body.”
Begun in 2010, the Newberry Building renovation was completed prior to the start of the 2012 spring semester. In addition to conference space and classrooms, the 20,175-square-foot facility houses faculty offices, a computer laboratory and study rooms.

MSU-Meridian currently enrolls non-residential students who typically are working adults or community college transfers. The additional Newberry classrooms and offices will serve the business division’s 170 majors and 14 faculty and administrators.

In a separate item, to meet the changing needs of a growing student body, Mississippi State University’s Department of Housing and Residence Life is exploring new ways to accommodate graduate students.

Currently, nearly 4,000 students live on campus, out of a total university enrollment of more than 20,000.

By this fall, a block of rooms will be designated as single, private rooms in both Ruby and Critz halls for those studying in master’s- or doctoral-level programs. Both facilities are located in close proximity to each other on the north side of campus.

Ruby is part of the Zacharias Village complex, while Critz is the last of four “boomerang” halls, so nicknamed because of their sweeping-curve design. While Ruby offers premium housing, Critz offers renovated rooms at a lower price point.

Bill Kibler, vice president for student affairs, said the decision came as part of a plan to accommodate particular graduate student needs. The addition of two new undergraduate residence halls currently under construction made the decision possible, he added.

“Our demand for on-campus housing is very high, and it is important that we accommodate our students to the very best of our ability and to the extent that our facilities allow,” Kibler said.

Student needs across all academic levels drive the university’s goal to create high-quality learning environments, he emphasized.

The new graduate rooms will be available for the nine-month, fall-spring academic year. Individuals desiring to live on campus during Maymester and the two summer terms will be required to submit separate applications for Rice Hall, a high-rise on the south side of campus.

MSU residence life has evolved significantly over the last decade, said Ann Bailey, veteran director of the housing and residence life department.

She said seven new residence halls have been constructed since 2005, with an additional five extensively renovated since 1999.

“While several of our older residence halls were able to be renovated at a feasible cost, a few of our facilities would have required such extensive modifications, that it was economically more practical to close certain halls,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the aging facilities that had to be closed included high-rise Hamlin and Suttle halls, as well as the three older “boomerang” halls, Duggar, Hightower and Smith. Additionally, Aiken Village, which for decades provided one and two bedroom apartments for graduate and married students, currently is slated for demolition.

Kibler said the newly designated graduate rooms will not solve every current need, but he expressed pleasure that MSU is taking another significant step to accommodate more students at Mississippi’s largest institution of higher learning.

“We are still building and developing our campus and working diligently according to our university master plan, and more housing facilities are in the planning process for the future,” Kibler said.

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