August 15, 2018

Living and learning together

Molly Englund

Goucher College opens two residence halls designed using behavioral science and celebrates debut of new dining facility and student center

  • The residence halls that make up the First-Year Village

Anyone who has spent time on Goucher’s campus over the past two years knows intimately that the college is undergoing an exciting period of transformation. Or, to be blunt: There’s been a lot of construction around here.

This fall, Goucher College opens three new buildings for students, including two residence halls that complete the First-Year Village—Fireside Hall and Trustees Hall—as well as the new Mary Fisher Dining and Student Center. The openings are timed to welcome one of the largest first-year classes in the college’s history. The new developments were designed using behavioral science and are focused on student engagement and retention by creating inclusive living-learning environments. 

  • New centralized dinning and student support offices can be found in the renovated Mary Fisher Hall and Dining Center. We are bringing back community over a shared meal, with expansive windows to not only allow in more natural light, but invite students passing by to pull up a seat. 

  • The new dining hall brings back some of students' favorite selections, including this updated version of Mongolian bowl, called Craft, where diners create their own stir-fry, freshly prepared in front of them. 

  • Sustainability was at the forefront of the new dining center, with features like locally sourced food from a variety of neighboring farms and orchards and a new centrifuge for compostable waste.

  • Trustees Hall (left) and Fireside Hall (right) joined Pagliaro Selz Hall in welcoming the class of 2022 to the First-year Village. The new halls were built with the same scientific nudges, designed for student success, as Pagliaro Selz.

  • The Class of 2022 moved in to their new digs on Saturday, August 18 with a head start on their academic career. Scientifically designed for students, the first class to live in Pagliaro Selz Hall last year had the highest G.P.A. and retention rate compared to their counterparts in other residences on campus. 

  • While Trustees Hall and Fireside Hall were designed with the same nudges as Pagliaro Selz, like the communal kitchen shown here, they do have new features, such as a game room, demonstration kitchen, wellness center, and rehearsal space. 

View full photo gallery of Mary Fisher Hall and Dining Center and the First-year Village

Mary Fisher Hall has always been a vital place on campus. Now, it’s truly the heart of the community, and with its exposed Butler stone, white subway tiles, and copper and wood accents, one that would be just as home in Brooklyn as it is on Van Meter Highway.

The original Mary Fisher building still stands, with large glass additions on the front and back, and with a ramp for improved accessibility. Inside, the Office of Student Engagement and (a little later this Fall) Counseling Center are easily accessible and a central staircase leads up to the expansive dining area.

In the mood for brick oven pizza? Linda Barone, the associate director of facilities and planning, said Mary Fisher has “the mack daddy of pizza ovens.” Weighing in at 6,000 pounds and covered in copper tiles, it’s built right in front of where the old fireplace was.

Pizza is just one of many options. There is a “global bowl” station, a Kosher and Halal spot (and separate Kosher kitchen), and allergen-free offerings. Anyone—guests, alumnae/i—is welcome and there is a prepared food section downstairs, with ready-to-eat sandwiches and salads. Notably, credit cards are finally accepted.

Environmental sustainability is infused everywhere, from reused materials to the new “dish drop” area: Students take their dishes to an automated tray system without scraping their plates. Everything served is compostable, and a centrifuge spins the food waste to remove water, making it a cleaner and easier process.

Filled with natural light, the building has lounge areas, TVs, and plenty of tables and banquette seating. A covered patio outside with copper panels has seating and prime people-watching views of Van Meter Highway. Some of those copper panels were painstakingly fashioned by Travon Hicks ’19, a summer intern for Whiting-Turner. The business management major is interested in engineering, and had to learn on the job as he repeatedly recut the panels until they were just right. “It’s going to be nice,” he said. “I can’t wait to eat in here.”

With Stimson at one end of campus, and the academic buildings at the other, students used to feel rushed at mealtime. Now, dining is finally in the center of campus. A path cuts between Mary Fisher and Haebler Chapel to join Van Meter Highway and the Loop Road, and another path runs from the Decker SRC to the First-Year Village. The whole campus feels connected in a new way.

Vice President and Dean of Students Bryan Coker said, “We know it is more important than ever for colleges like Goucher to capitalize on those experiences that require physical proximity, and that’s why we chose to centralize all of our campus dining and to build a First-Year Village that brings students out of their rooms, as opposed to isolating them inside.”

Indeed, there’s much to do outside the residence halls, particularly around the new buildings. The First-Year Courtyard, located in the center of the three First-Year Village residences, is a large grassy area encircled by maple trees. There’s a small amphitheater, hammocks, loungers on the lawn, a gas fireplace, and room to kick a soccer ball.

It’s another way to facilitate community—not only do the amenities draw students out of their rooms, but students must walk through those amenities, and shared spaces like communal lounges, to get to their floors and rooms. The spaces are designed using “nudge theory,” a type of behavioral science that President Bowen promotes (and is writing a book on) to positively influence student behavior toward building relationships and encouraging learning everywhere.

The First-Year Village’s Pagliaro Selz Hall opened in the fall of 2016, and this August it is joined by Trustees Hall and Fireside Hall. Trustees Hall features a gaming room with foosball and a pool table, and is the home of the new Wellness Center, which will have intramural and recreational programming for students and community members. It also has rehearsal space that any student can reserve. The goal is to make the First-Year Village a rich mix of living, learning, and playing.

Fireside Hall has a gas fireplace, two apartments for faculty and staff, a large community kitchen that anyone can reserve, and a covered patio. Each residence hall has over 130 beds, and each floor has a study room, lounge, and full-size kitchen stocked with pots, pans, and bakeware for students to cook together.

As Dean Coker pointed out, “These new facilities are designed to reinforce a stronger campus community, through vibrant shared spaces in which students will live and learn together.”

Here’s to living and learning, one pan of brownies—or brick oven pizza—at a time.