HALLOWELL — Elisabeth Olguin became a student at the University of Maine Augusta so she could study cybersecurity. 

With a new cyber range, the degree program is one of several UMA has that are hand-on, and she will benefit from being close to campus.

Olguin is one of 36 students who will live in Stevens Hall in Hallowell, UMA’s first residential hall. 

“The students themselves spurred this mission forward,” said UMA President Rebecca Wyke. “We saw this as opportunities for those who needed this in order to attend our programs.”

UMA has been known for its distance learning, but some programs — like architecture, aviation, contemporary music and nursing — require hands-on participation. 

“I live an hour away, so it makes much more sense to live closer,” said Vincent Nelson, of Standish, who will be studying aviation. 

In 1965 when UMA became a university, it started as an adult education branch of the University of Maine System, Wyke said. Twenty years ago, it offered baccalaureate degrees as well. 

“(Providing student housing) is something that has been under consideration for a long time,” said Wyke. “The early plans called for a full campus expansion, but that never came to fruition.”

Claudia Lee, left, and Libby Bureau, both of Albion, carry things Thursday into Stevens Hall, the new University of Maine at Augusta dormitory in Hallowell. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

The cost of the restoration of the historic Stevens Hall building is $2.8 million over five years, according to Wyke. 

Stevens Hall is UMA’s first residential hall, and by the 2020-2021 school year, a second dorm will open at Stevens Commons, Erskine Hall, said Sheri Fraser, UMA’s dean of students. It will offer similar living situations. 

Around half of the students living in Stevens Hall this year are from Maine, and the other half represent 11 other states and Puerto Rico; the oldest student residing in the dorm is 24. There also are two French tutors living there.

Claudia Lee, of Albion, carries things into her room Thursday in Stevens Hall, the new University of Maine at Augusta dormitory in Hallowell. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Olguin drove 923 miles from Sanford, North Carolina, with her parents, Chad and Scarlett Suarez. In the three-bedroom suite, they unpacked luggage totes, assembled curtain rods and set up pieces that would make Olguin’s new residence feel like home. 

“Originally we had been looking into renting into an apartment for her,” said Scarlett, “but this gives us a more warm and fuzzy feeling for her first year.”

As a father, Chad said he thinks Stevens Hall is a safer place for his 18-year-old daughter to live than off campus in an apartment.

“I am pretty pleased with the security,” he said. 

Fraser said the university has contracted with a security agency, and an officer will be at the hall at night, with hours added on the weekends. 

There will also be a full-time residence manager living onsite, and two students will serve as community advisors. 

“I get to care for the entire student, not just the academic side or the social,” said residence manager Kim Kenniston. “I get to check in and make sure overall they are doing well.”

Originally a Hallowell resident, Kenniston has a master’s degree in education with a concentration in higher education counseling. She has served in similar capacities in Massachusetts, Connecticut and, most recently, at Colby College in Waterville.

Olguin and Nelson will have private bedrooms and share their suite with two other students. The suites are outfitted with bathrooms and full kitchens, which the roommates will share. The other suites in the hall are set up similarly, though some bedrooms will be double.

The three-story brick building is located on the 53-acre Stevens Commons. The name “Stevens Commons” is a tribute to the Stevens School, which was built there in the 1870s as a girls’ school, and more recently occupied by state offices and other agencies. 

“The building looked really old,” said Nelson, “but then when I came in, it was really modern and nice.”

“It is a lovely mix of maintaining a historical building, but it is also very modern,” said Fraser.

Jamie Houghton, from Vision Hallowell, left, talks to student Brandon Hemingway Thursday at Stevens Hall, the new University of Maine at Augusta dormitory in Hallowell. Vision Hallowell partnered with local businesses to give students a bag of information and coupons. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Students will pay between $3,000 and $4,000 per semester per student, Fraser said. If needed, students can finance their board with financial aid, Wyke said. 

Preference to live in the dormitory was established by a lottery where priority was given to new UMA students, both freshmen and transfers, those who were not local and those whose degree paths would be hands-on.

In the application, students could indicate living preferences. For example, some suites were co-ed while others were single gender. 

Students in the residence hall are responsible for providing their own food. The kitchens, with modern appliances, will offer a chance students to prepare meals. There is also a cafe on campus that students can utilize for breakfast and lunch, and meal plans are offered there. 

A cafe will eventually open on the first floor as early as January, Wyke said. That may be open to the public and offer meals throughout the day all week, but those details have not been finalized.

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