FHSU's new residence hall: A place to call home

victor e village dedication picture

By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. - Urging from his aunt and uncle convinced Brad DeMers to check out Fort Hays State University for his postsecondary education.

The opportunity to major in organizational leadership intrigued DeMers.

The chance to live in a brand new residence hall with students who shared his same interests cemented his decision.

DeMers, a native of tiny Osceola, Neb. (population 843) was one of the speakers who spoke highly of the new 406-bed Victor E. Village Thursday afternoon at a dedication ceremony for the building. He is part of the "L3: Live. Learn. Lead" learning community.

A learning community is a group of up to 28 first-year students who share common interests, take classes together, live on the same floor and participate in activities together throughout the year. Students who are part of the learning communities make up the majority of the new building.

"This dorm is amazing, and it's improving every day," DeMers said. "I speak on behalf of all the students when saying thanks to everyone who worked hard to make this building amazing."

"The addition of Victor E. Village to our suite of residence halls provides us with a first-class facility for our growing freshman living and learning communities," said Dr. Joey Linn, vice president for student affairs.

Thursday marked the second dedication of a new residence hall in as many years. Right next door is the Dane G. Hansen Scholarship Hall, home to 33 students who have a passion for entrepreneurship.

Next month, yet another new residence hall will be dedicated. The ceremony honoring Tiger Village, a 96-bed unit that houses three Greek organizations and a sophomore learning community, is scheduled for Homecoming weekend on Oct. 7.

But on Thursday, all the attention was on Victor E. Village. Even members of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors program were on hand for a ribbon cutting.

Victor E. Village replaces Wiest Hall, which is undergoing demolition southeast of the new building. The 110,000-square-foot, four-story Victor E. Village features both single- and double-occupancy rooms, with a central lounge in each community. Each level includes study rooms, private pod-style bathrooms and a kitchen. Other features include conference rooms, laundry facilities and a dining venue.

"This new residential facility represents a new era in living and learning at Fort Hays State University," said Dr. Andy Tompkins, interim president at FHSU. "Not only is this a state-of-the-art residence hall with many amenities, but it is also organized to support student friendships and student interests. Our goal at Fort Hays State is to help students succeed at the university and then become successful, contributing citizens. We keep this goal in mind in all that we do, including the construction of new facilities."

Linn said the addition of the two new villages on campus "aligns perfectly with our student success initiatives."

"It reinforces our commitment to our students and gives them a home away from home," he said, "that they can be proud of throughout their educational journey here at FHSU."

Emily Brandt, FHSU student body president, said she was nervous about coming to college three years ago and living with a total stranger. However, her experience while living in Wiest Hall soon squelched those fears.

"Throughout the year, it was where I made lifelong friends and created some of my favorite memories," said Brandt, a senior political science major from Beloit. "Living on campus is such an integral part of the on-campus college experience. Living with peers of different backgrounds, beliefs and values, students from different countries and states who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and religions - it is a think tank of ideas and knowledge where creativity flourishes and civil discourse is had."

DeMers is the nephew of Dr. Jeff and Joleen Briggs, who both work at FHSU. Jeff Briggs is interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Joleen Briggs is academic services administrator.

While DeMers admits he likes having relatives in his new town, he also feels right at home with his family in Victor E. Village. He already is part of the Residence Hall Council.

"I can already tell you that Year One of Victor E. Village will be the start of a new era here at Fort Hays State University, one that many students from across many states and countries will want to be part of," said DeMers, who plans to get even more involved on campus.

"We are excited for our students as they become the first residents of this new facility," Tompkins said, "and we look forward to the difference this facility will make in the lives of generations of students to come."

DeMers said he was excited this summer as he awaited his move to Hays.

"I'll tell you what, the wait was worth it," he said. "With this new dorm comes brand new traditions, traditions that hopefully will stay for its lifetime, just like Wiest Hall had."

Brandt agreed.

"Victor E. Village starts its legacy this year with its inaugural class of students," she said. "Its history will be rich with stories and laughter for Tigers to come."

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