ISU’s Wilson Hall Returns to Tradition, Filling Up with Freshmen

Ames, IOWA – Thousands of Iowa State University alumni attribute some of their fondest college memories to their freshman year experience in Wilson Hall, and now, hundreds of new Cyclones will have the same opportunity. The Department of Residence has announced plans to restructure the residence hall currently devoted to housing upperclassmen to focus primarily on housing incoming freshmen. The move comes as the university anticipates a large freshman class.

“We have a long tradition of partnering with our residents to provide a terrific environment for learning and making lifelong friends,” said Pete Englin, Director of Residence. “We’re excited to see that tradition expanded to freshmen in Wilson Hall this fall.”

Wilson Hall is part of the Wallace/Wilson community located on the southern part of campus. In recent years, the community has been used as single occupancy housing for roughly 450 upperclassmen. Wallace Hall will continue to house upperclassmen while Wilson Hall will convert to double occupancy to accommodate roughly 500 freshmen residents.

Wilson Hall rooms will feature new furniture, including lofted beds, desks, a wardrobe cabinet, and a Microfridge. Students will have access to outdoor recreation facilities, a fitness room, and a commons area featuring a convenience store. Unlike students living in the Richardson Court or Union Drive neighborhoods, freshmen in Wilson Hall will not be required to purchase meal plans. ISU Dining officials have elected to make meal plans optional as the facility adjusts to the growth in the Wallace-Wilson community.

“We’re currently investigating a number of options with our dining service at Wallace/Wilson,” said Nancy Levandowski, ISU Dining Director. “Everything from running a food truck to expanding our meal bundle options is on the table.”

Research shows that freshmen living on campus at ISU record a higher GPA than their off campus peers. Residents will be able to work closely with their community advisors and a full-time hall director whenever they have questions or concerns, including academic assistance. Some added advantages for Wilson residents will be the proximity to central campus and Campustown and the vibrancy of the Wallace/Wilson community.

“It took awhile to get used to it because it seemed so far away from campus,” said Shelbi Risdal, a sophomore who spent her first year in Wilson Hall and plans to return in the fall. “But, Wilson Hall has a convenience store right in the building, close parking, and rooms that already come with a mini-fridge and microwave. You can make friends with the people on your floor and in your building, the halls have social gatherings so you can meet more people, and it is quiet enough that you can get your homework done.”

Built in the mid 1960s, Wilson Hall was a vital component of a lively community located in what was known as the Towers Residence Association. The Towers, which included Wallace, Wilson, Knapp, and Storms halls, was home to over 2,000 freshmen each year on the ISU campus.

“The Towers area was a very vibrant and active community when it was open to freshmen,” said Ginny Arthur, Associate Director for Residence Life and former Assistant Director for the Towers Residence Association. “Students felt like they could attend class all day and then come home to an area that was their own place to hang out with their friends and take advantage of the commons area and the outdoor space.”

In 2003 and 2004, structural issues caused the Department of Residence to close Knapp and Storms halls. In 2005, the halls were demolished. Knapp and Storms halls were constructed using a batch of concrete with a high iron content, which over time led to irreparable damage. The concrete used to create Wallace and Wilson halls contained the appropriate amount of iron to withstand Iowa weather conditions.

The restructuring of Wilson Hall to include freshmen marks a return to tradition for the ISU campus. It’s a tradition the Department of Residence is excited to once again experience.

“Our mission is to help our students experience success at Iowa State University,” said Englin. “The more students we have the opportunity to serve, the more we get to live that mission. We can't wait for our students to arrive at Wilson Hall and each of our other residence halls and apartments this August.”