New dorms poses challenges, opportunities for dorm mom, RAs

At the beginning of this semester, our university opened the doors to our new Student Village which consists of 12 four-story houses, housing more than 350 students. The $26 million project is now completed and has officially made its mark on the university’s expansive history.

With the new dorms came a new residence hall director or “dorm mom,” Nancy Harrell.

Harrell is a 1998 Ouachita alum. After working overseas for a few years, Harrell came back to Ouachita and was a hall director for O.C. Bailey from 2001-2003. In 2006, she graduated from
Wheaton College in Illinois and worked in the Residence Life Office there for three years just prior to coming back to Ouachita for her third round as a Ouachitonian.

When presented with the opportunity to return to Ouachita as a hall director, Harrell gladly accepted.

“After leaving OBU in 2003, I always imagined I’d return someday to live or work here,” Harrell said.

“I have a big place in my heart for OBU and its missions and commitments. When I was offered the job here, I was excited about the opportunity to work with Michael Cox and support the work he’s doing here.”

Harrell’s husband, Tim, is the new Campus Activities Director on campus. Together, they have an infant son named Henry, who “seems to be enjoying all the students and res life staff here,” Harrell said. “Being a hall director and a mom has been a really natural fit, so far. Most of what I do can be accomplished with Henry on my hip, which is great!”

The new dorms have also brought along new challenges for the resident directors and assistants, both new and old.

“I think the building presents encouragement and challenge for community building,” Harrell said. “The common area spaces like the green space, lobbies, game room, theatre rooms and study rooms have incredible potential to bring people together. But the shapes of the hallways make it challenging for people to know their neighbors.”

“It’s a larger hall and there are a lot more girls than I’m used to,” senior Allison Smith, a third-year RA, said. “There are several things we have to find out as a team that have already been figured out in the other dorms.”

Better opportunities have come along with the building of the new Student Village, as well.

“[There are] more opportunities for us to get together as a community [including] the new theatre room, a large lobby and the workout room,” Smith said. “But everybody is so separated.”

Within each house in the village, there are two suites, either private or semi-private, each housing four girls. Built to simulate the feel of an apartment, the rooms are more isolated than regular campus dorm rooms, causing a hole in the normal community feel students at Ouachita have come to cherish.

“Community will require effort on everyone’s part to…meet the people on their floors and in the building,” Harrell said. “The RA staff is very experienced and diverse in its gifts, abilities and activities, so I’m excited to see what ideas [the team] fosters for community building.”

The arrival of the new Student Village has certainly created an exciting buzz across campus; however, according to Smith, the village is not something to be taken for granted.

“For all the residents [in the new dorms], take pride in the dorm and take care of it,” Smith said.

“We are very fortunate to have something this nice to live in…This is what Ouachita students will live in for years to come.” n

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