A new home for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Honors Program expanded not only students’ dorm rooms but also the program’s offerings.
The Honors Program moved from its former location in Neihardt Hall to the Robert E. Knoll Residential Center this fall, allowing the program to expand its housing, class offerings and programming.
The university decided to close Neihardt in October 2019. Renovations on Knoll started this summer, after former residents moved out of their rooms in May, according to the Honors Program coordinator Jacob Schlange.
Renovations included converting four of the former suites into three additional classrooms for honors courses and an office for honors advisors and faculty. The dorms became housing for honors students.
Knoll is currently housing 443 honors students and 83 non-honors students, Schlange said. Upperclassmen honors students can request non-honors students as roommates.
He said the residents are primarily freshmen, but the new housing has driven more upperclassmen honors students to live there. Knoll offers two-to-a-bedroom suites for underclassmen and one-to-a-bedroom suites for upperclassmen.
According to Schlange, the new building inspired the program to increase the range of honors classes available. Knoll has four classrooms total to host its honors seminars, allowing the program to bring back the popular Harry Potter and Social Activism seminar for the fall 2019 semester, he said.
The new space also allows the program to host more first week events for its residents and an ongoing “Wellness Wednesday” series with activities like guided meditations and leisure walking, Schlange said.
Renovations are still underway to create a cafe, run by UNL Dining Services, in the building. Schlange said the cafe will feature healthy snacks and drinks, and hopes it will bring visitors to the center.
“The goal behind that is really to make Knoll a destination not only for honor students on campus, whether or not they live here, but also for other people in the campus community and in the Lincoln community to come and engage with our students,” Schlange said.
The move to Knoll presented challenges, like students struggling to find their classrooms and having to adjust to living in a suite-style dorm, but the students are enjoying the space, Schlange said.
Sophomore political science, Spanish and global studies triple major Caroline Hilgert lived in Neihardt last year, and though she enjoyed the charm of the old building, she said she felt cramped in the space.
“The actual situation of it was probably like, the lowest quality on campus,” she said. “The building was amazing. But when I walked into my room for the first time, and I opened my door, and my mom was right behind me, I said, ‘Mom, I can't do this, this is too small.’”
Hilgert said she is happy to have more space in Knoll this year. She said the upperclassmen suite gives her the opportunity to have her own room and still be close to everything on campus.
“It’s a 10-minute walk to all of my classes … and the facilities here are so nice,” she said.
Hilgert said she felt a strong sense of community living in Neihardt and thinks Knoll can provide that same feeling once the program settles into its new building.
“I think that’s just a time thing as the Honors Program gets more established here,” she said.
Schlange agrees that the community will grow over time.
“From what I can tell, it seems like the community is going to be just as vibrant here as it was in Neihardt,” he said.
The new space, he said, also offers more opportunities for non-honors students and the university as a whole to interact with the program and its events.
“It's really bringing the Honors Program more into the forefront of the campus community and getting it on people's radar so they know all of the great things that are happening with the Honors Program,” Schlange said.
This article was originally published in the October 2019 edition of The DN.