Audrey Castaneda-Walker found a greater appreciation for functional plumbing, electric and heat when she lived at a couple of Ohio Wesleyan University’s older residential buildings.
She lived in one of OWU’s has seven small living units, or SLUs, with some originally located on Rowland and Oak Hill avenues and West William Street. SLUs not only provide a roof over student’s heads but allows them to live as a family, bonded by a particular interest.
But working utilities was a challenge, said Castaneda-Walker, until she moved to one of the new duplex-style SLUs on Rowland Avenue.
“It’s definitely been a blessing,” she said.
The city approved plans in August 2015 for the construction of four new duplex-style homes to accommodate all seven of the university’s existing SLUs.
Each new SLU can accommodate up to 24 students.
Two of them are now completed housing: the Interfaith House and Sexuality and Gender Equality, and the houses of Peace and Justice and of Linguistic Diversity. The third SLU, expected to open this fall, will house the House of Spiritual Athletes and the Tree House. The Citizens of the World House will remain on Oak Hill Avenue for now.
The new SLUs are the first wave of new student housing in about 50 years, said Thea Smeckens, an OWU residential life coordinator.
All SLUs have student moderators who said the new housing improves communal living as the students are more likely to dine together, while sharing the bathroom is more efficient.
“This was built for students,” said Rachel Scherrer, the moderator of the House of P&J.
The new SLUs arrival comes as OWU released in late December its strategic plan to increase enrollment to 2,020 students by 2020. The university’s enrollment has fluctuated over the decades with the with the low at 1,387 in 1985.
Enrollment is now 1,650, but the campus can accommodate 40 percent more at about 2,400 students.
But several of the SLUs were at or near the end of their viability to home students, said Cole Hatcher, OWU’s director of media and community relations.
“Enrollment aside, in addition to strong academics, today’s prospective students and families have expectations for facilities that we want to ensure we meet. An outside firm came in to survey our housing stock a few years ago to help us decide how to proceed in efforts to enhance our housing,” he said.
All three “SLUplexes” were built with donor funds, with the fourth to be built when donor funding is secured, Hatcher added.
The new SLUs have played a role in the university’s admissions scavenger hunts and admission tours, SLU moderators said. Walker, who’s the moderator of HOLD, said a potential athlete and his mother visited her SLU a couple weeks ago to ask for more information following a campus tour.
“It’s a big aspect of the university,” Walker said.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.