Members of the media were gathering outside East Village early Tuesday morning, August 20, for an exclusive tour of Baylor University’s new residential facility as a few workers hurriedly finished washing the glass doors leading inside. It was the last look at the pristine $73-million complex before students descended on Wednesday—a calm before the storm.
Sophomore Audrey Bratcher was checking in a day early. She is a psychology major—one of the few students living in the East Village’s Gordon Teal Residential College who are not majoring in engineering and computer science (ECS), because Teal is specifically for students in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. Bratcher got in, she said, because Baylor didn’t have enough female applicants. “It turns out engineering is not a very popular major for girls,” she said.
To be admitted to live at Teal College, “I had to write a little ‘about me’ essay about why I would fit in,” Bratcher said. “There were also interviews, but it wasn’t a hard process.”
Senior Austin Bratcher, who was helping his sister move in, said he was excited for her—especially after seeing the fireplace in the lobby. He lived in the ECS learning community—then located in North Village—for two years and enjoyed being with “like-minded” students to launch his college career.
Teal College houses about half of East Village residents. The rest are in Hallie Earle Hall, a living-learning community for health science majors.
East Village’s half a million square feet of space can house 701 total students, increasing Baylor’s on-campus beds to 5,400. South Russell Hall was closed for renovation this year, and North Russell will be renovated next year.
Baylor’s dean for student learning and engagement Jeff Doyle said that “a lot of time and thought” went in over years of planning for East Village. Committees of student leaders provided input about every aspect, including details like the design of common study rooms. One area in Teal College is a robotics lab, while Earle Hall has a large seminar room.
Students also helped choose the names of the buildings. Teal College namesake Gordon Teal was a 1927 Baylor graduate who invented the silicon transistor in 1954, and Hallie Earle was a 1901 Baylor graduate and 1907 graduate of Baylor Medical School—its first female graduate.
Faculty-in-residence live in both Teal College and Earle Hall, while an additional twelve faculty member offices are in the complex. Student life deans and other staff also office in East Village, providing many “touch points” for students to seek assistance and build relationships with faculty and staff.
Doyle said the entire facility is designed to promote community, learning, and spiritual growth. Special attention to those goals went into every decision, he said. “There’s a handful of universities opening new halls this year, and some of them have really cool features like nap pods . . . and X-Box stations,” he said “But we’ve looked at the data, and we know that students who play a lot of video games aren’t as successful and don’t graduate in as high a percentage at Baylor. So we chose to invest more in spiritual and learning and community spaces for our students.”
There are certainly places for fun and leisure in East Village—game rooms with pool and Ping Pong tables, outdoor horseshoe pits, and a bocce ball pitch.
“There may be fancier trinkets at other universities that are fun for a few months,” Doyle said. “But we hope this is a building for a hundred years or more where community is formed between our students, faculty, and staff.”
On top of the many amenities and the six different floor plans for rooming, there is the “Dining Commons,” which bears little resemblance to anything alumni may remember as a “dorm cafeteria.”
The five-hundred-seat Dining Commons is on the second floor, with sweeping views of campus from large windows and dining balconies. The dining area walls are painted a calming green color, and hip ceramic tile patterns cover the food service area, which offers choices like a gluten-free station, a Mongolian grill, and locally grown produce. A punchy yellow wall highlights the coffee and drink station.
Down on the first floor, the East Village also has a retail bakery selling made-from-scratch baked goods and coffee, a Red Mango frozen yogurt store, and a convenience store.
Any Baylor student can dine at the East Village Dining Commons, and the public, including alumni who are visiting campus, may sample any of these dining options as well. But alumni beware—everything operates on a student-centric schedule and will likely be closed during holidays and Spring Break.
Baylor officials hope the East Village addition to campus adds some appeal for upperclass students to live on campus—one of the goals of Baylor 2012 was to have 50 percent of students living inside the campus community. For this first year of operation, East Village’s population comprises about 50 percent freshmen, 30 percent sophomores, and 20 percent juniors and seniors. —Meg Cullar