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Birch Unveiled New Look

Peder Aalgaard | Staff Writer | 10-11-12
On Friday, Sept. 28, Birch Hall hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony after a successful reopening. The hall was open to the public so anyone who wished could see the drastic changes made during the renovation. Tours were led by the residential assistants (RAs) working in Birch this year. The tours showed each floor’s new look, the rebuilt tunnels, the laundry room, and what the new dorm rooms look like.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, speeches were given by current student and RA Kyle Schwartz, former Director of Residential Life Dale Ladig, and President Richard Hanson. Each speaker gave his thoughts on the changes to Birch.

Schwartz spoke about his freshman year living in Birch. While living there, he did not know it was possible to get to A wing from B wing and now likes the new lounge set-up. Another drastic improvement, in his opinion, was the changes made to the parking lot entrance, which look cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing than the previous arrangement, which looked like a boring obelisk.

Ladig spoke second. He felt it was an accomplishment and an honor to speak in front of the people responsible for making the building and many others. “The major tenet of this,” he said “was to listen to the students. It was the voice that we heard when we did Linden Hall, the student voice we heard here.” The main difference, he said, was to avoid the metro look for a north-woods atmosphere in Birch.
The final speaker was President Hanson. He made a few observations, such as how nice the building is compared to 40 years ago. He also wanted to stress the experiences students receive while living in a residential hall.

“This building,” Hanson said, “the whole notion of a residential life program is about learning. Students will learn more here than they will learn in the classroom. Sometimes academics can be a little abstract and obtuse, and a little difficult to get though. Here, you come home.”

After the ribbon-cutting, tours proceeded until 5 p.m.
Birch’s new look features a larger lounge and lobby area with a bigger front desk. The lounges on each floor connect with one another, joining A wing and B wing. This is the first time students can go directly from one wing to another. It was done to make the floors feel much more open and welcoming.

These junctions act as common areas for students to sit and do homework, watch television, or use the kitchen. Birch is now using all floors for student housing after the Student Center for Health and Counseling was moved to Cedar Hall, giving room for more students to live in Birch.

The last major change was the addition of an elevator by the parking lot doors. This has helped make Birch much easier to navigate during move-in days, as well as making it more handicap accessible.

For Bawani Sathia Moorthi, an RA returning to Birch for a third year, some of her favorite features are the elevators and connected lounges with TVs on each floor. She also likes the bigger front desk.