Honors students at Oklahoma Christian University will have their own dorm next fall.
Crews are working on a $2.3 million renovation of Reba-Davisson Hall to house about 80 to 85 students and their resident mentors. Work should be completed by July, university spokesman Joshua Watson said.
“I'm pretty excited,” sophomore Hannah Bingham, 19, said. “I think it will be pretty neat to have all of the honors students together where we can get to know each other better.”
Honors students in the past have been scattered in dorms throughout OC's campus in north Oklahoma City.
Scott LeMascus, director of the honors program, said the university is trying to create a living and learning community for its highest achieving students.
“We're trying to keep the dorm from being a retreat from learning but instead an extension of it,” LeMascus said. “Students spend so much more of their time in the dorms than they do in the classroom. We hope to motivate and empower them to do their best work.”
LeMascus said the National Collegiate Honors Council, of which the OC honors program is a member, is explicit in its recommendation for separate housing for honors students to help hone their focus on academics.
The average ACT score for an honors student at OC is 31, LeMascus said. About 30 percent of the students are National Merit Scholars. Students are taught in smaller classes and visit cultural events and places together on a regular basis. All honor students are required to do international study.
Having their own space to live and study, particularly in their first two years of college, is critical, LeMascus said.
“This will help keep them on track toward successfully completing the program and graduating,” he said.
There are about 110 students in the honors college, he said, but many upperclassmen will choose to live in other housing on campus.
Reba-Davisson Hall was built in the 1970s, LeMascus said. Now, the screeching of saws can be heard and sawdust is thick in the air as crews work to rebuild the interior of the building with men's and women's wings, commons areas, new bathrooms, a cafe and a full kitchen.
One feature of the new hall will be individual and group tutoring rooms, LeMascus said. Another feature will be suites for resident mentors — people who have been through the honors program and are either in graduate school or well-advanced in the program. They will live in the dorm to offer tutoring and other help to younger students.
Bingham said after living in an older dorm this year, she's excited about the new space.
On a recent walk-through of the building, she stopped to examine a dorm room.
“I'm pretty excited about the size of those closets,” she said. “And the new bathrooms will be nice.”