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The Suite life at UWRF

December 6, 2007

It is the third year since the opening of the South Fork Suites, which were expected to be the next form of student living convince at UW-River Falls. Since the facility’s opening in the fall of 2005, there has been much interest and discussion of the facility and the plans for the future.

Kristie Feist, east area coordinator for residence life, became involved with the project two months after the facility’s inception. In talking to the students and from her experience with the apartment style dorms, she commented on the conditions and issues with the new building in its first few years.

“Like all new buildings there were some kinks to work out, most of which were simple mechanical problems such as leaks in the plumbing,” Feist said.

The problems were addressed and fixed by facilities management and since then have been corrected.

Some of the benefits of the facility include each person having more privacy in their bedroom. Residents generally were happy with per person ratio for the washer and dryers and liked the kitchenettes that were provided, although some expressed interest in having a range stove in the rooms so they don’t have to share them with the entire floor where they are currently located in the halls.

“You get your own room and kitchen so you don’t have to eat at the University Center,” senior and first semester resident of the Suites Nick Knaapen said.

One of the issues in talking with some students is that the Suites are more like apartment atmospheres than the actual dorm experience.

“No one really comes out,” Knaapen said. “Everyone pretty much keeps to themselves.”

In talking about improvements for the facility and possible future goals, Feist mentioned the possibility of filling some of the empty common space with different activities that students would be more likely to use such as pool tables that would encourage students to congregate and use the common areas.

In talking to students residing in the Suites, Feist is confident that the students are pleased with the living conditions provided. Focus groups and surveys provided by the University are given and are designed to measure overall satisfaction with the Suites.

“We wanted to provide a living option for older students and give them more of a progressive living environment from the dorms to a more apartment style setting,” Feist said.

For the future, some talks have been tossed around about giving students the option to have a 12-month contract in the suites, but that idea has been getting mixed reviews.

According to Knaapen, an apartment would be more cost effective as an alternative to staying in the Suites year round.

“The Suites are pretty expensive,” Knaapen said.

Feist also emphasized that plans are underway to add on to the facility and make changes and improvements, which a committee of staff and students will decide upon.

“The Suites have met our expectations for what we have envisioned for it,” Feist said.

The expectations will be even higher for the new addition, which a committee is making plans to be completed by the 2009 school year.

According to Feist, the goal is to add an additional 200 to 300 beds.

“We will continue to use evaluative tools to gage satisfaction of the residents and use the data to make appropriate changes based on various issues,” Feist said.

More information on the South Fork Suites can be found at http://sa.uwrf.edu/sa/res-life/res-halls/south-fork.