Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday announced to students, faculty and staff of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) that the state will allot $27 million for a new residence hall. Construction should begin in the next fiscal year.
“We have secured, and I have committed, the funding necessary to build a new dormitory here at LSMSA,” said Gov. Edwards during his announcement. “This is a residential setting for you all, and it is important that you have a home here that is conducive to what you are trying to do in terms of your academic studies.
“I am very excited about this, and we are going to make sure that this funding is made available as soon as possible.”
The project has been in the works for several years, beginning under the direction of LSMSA’s former Executive Director Dr. Patrick Widhalm.
“LSMSA has earned its place among the nation’s top schools because of the exceptional ability and dedication of its students and faculty,” Widhalm said, who now serves as head of school at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans. “However, what sets it apart is the ‘living, learning’ environment.
“As I saw among students during my tenure at the school, the current residence halls, Prudhomme and Caddo, were places that set a transformative LSMSA experience,” Widhalm continued. “It is so exciting to think of moving beyond these residence halls to a properly designed place that will nurture, secure, and transform generations of Eagles for years to come.”
Prudhomme and Caddo halls, both Northwestern State University residence halls built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, were loaned to LSMSA in 1982 to house its male and female students. Extensive renovations were completed in both buildings during the late 1980s. Originally, the residence halls were offered to LSMSA for five years, but due to state budget restraints, the school was unable to submit a request for a new residence hall until 2005. Since that time, LSMSA has maintained the facilities beyond their useful life spans.
“We are thankful to NSU because without their sharing of these residence halls with us, LSMSA would not have existed as it is today,” said LSMSA Executive Director Dr. Steve Horton. “Since the school’s opening in fall 1983, all of its near 6,000 students have called Caddo, Prudhomme, Bossier, or Bozeman halls their home throughout their LSMSA experience. Bossier and Bozeman halls have since been demolished.”
During his announcement, Gov. Edwards applauded the students for their ability to make the most out of their current residencies.
“One of the things that encourages me most about young people at this school is that you have not allowed the condition of the dormitories to diminish your experience,” said Gov. Edwards.
The new residence hall will support and encourage the needs of each student and provide a safe community. Ashe, Broussard, and Weinzettle Architects, and Tipton Associates, the designers of the project, secured input from faculty and staff, students and parents to define ideal areas for a comprehensive campus living environment.
The proposed 110,000-square-foot facility, located adjacent to the campus and behind NSU’s Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library and LSMSA’s Center for Performance and Technology, will have four stories and three towers, and will include 10 neighborhoods designated for male and female students. Each neighborhood will include a common room, a kitchen, several two-bedroom resident suites, a laundry room and a study lounge.
In addition, the facility will include administrative offices for Student Services, a student health center; apartments for residential life staff, a demonstration kitchen with a small dining area, a guest suite for visiting professors and prospective students, a crafts room, a resident lounge, a gaming room and a theater room. The facility includes an outdoor recreation area.
“For more than 35 years we have been able to offer Louisiana’s high-achieving and highly motivated students a unique, world-class education with nationally ranked, university-credentialed faculty and classes unlike anywhere else in the state,” said Dr. Kristi Pope Key, director of academic services. “With the addition of our new residence hall, what we are finally able to do is offer those same students a unique, world-class living environment to match the vision and the scope of our learning environment.”
LSMSA students, faculty, staff and governing board members all expressed eagerness and thankfulness to the state for seeing the benefits of this upcoming project.
“The Board of Directors is excited and enthusiastic about moving ahead,” said Sharon Gahagan, chair of the LSMSA Board of Directors. “The board thanks Gov. Edwards for his leadership and dedication to the dormitory project. By doing so, he understands the importance of providing safe, secure and comfortable housing for LSMSA students and has made a commitment to the total educational experience on campus.”
The LSMSA Foundation Board of Trustees in 2013 provided funding for a feasibility study for the proposed new residence hall.
“It is a project we have been working on for years, so it has been a long time coming,” Bill New, president of the LSMSA Foundation Board of Trustees, said. “We are thankful to finally see it come to fruition, and it is all thanks to a lot of hard work from a lot of different people.”
Construction is estimated to take two years. Upon completion, the facility will house 360 students. The school is currently at its enrollment capacity of 365 students.
“The living/learning experience at LSMSA is so life-changing that, each year, eager parents and students manage to look beyond our aging facilities to see that the experience is worth the sacrifice,” Emily Shumate, director of Enrollment and Student Services, said. “Even with the issues that exist in our current residence halls, we had a waiting list for this school year. Finally being able to offer applicants a living experience that is as exceptional as the learning experience we offer them will be a game-changer.”
LSMSA is now accepting applications for the 2019-2020 school year. Interested students can start the process at www.LSMSA.edu/apply.