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Murray's Hester Hall gets ready for returning students

BY GENEVIEVE POSTLETHWAIT gpostlethwait@paducahsun.com

MURRAY - Right on schedule, Murray State University's newly renovated Hester Hall will be ready to welcome 308 lucky students in time for the fall semester.

The eight-floor residential college has been closed since last summer for the first major renovation in the building since its construction in the '60s.

The renovation included structural changes (like the overhaul of the building's electrical and plumbing systems), as well as cosmetic and spatial changes to make it more conducive for the community-building the residential college system encourages.

"The goal was to try and create a better space for students to congregate," said David Wilson, MSU director of housing. "If kids are enjoying where they live, if they're happy with their environment, then they're going to stay and graduate."

The community space on Hester's first floor has been reoriented and given a face-lift to make it more inviting and usable for students, as well as to improve security. The entrance and front desk are now on the building's east side, with exits on the north and south ends, giving those working the front desk a clearer view of the entire floor. The first floor also has updated media centers, a community kitchen and office spaces for residential advisers, and will soon have a pool table.

Upstairs all communal bathrooms have been outfitted with new fixtures, and each room has built-in dressers and vanities. Every floor has its own cozy study lounge, with an added, larger meeting room on the third, fifth and seventh floors. Fresh paint and new, durable laminate flooring run throughout the building, featuring a subtle blue, yellow and green color scheme.

According to Don Robertson, vice president of student affairs, the renovations were funded by university housing fees. The university received no public funding for the updates, and took on no debt.

"We've built two new buildings, now we've renovated two new high rises, and we've finished the design now for Franklin (residential college)," Robertson said. "That will be our next project, which we'll start work on this year. Eventually all of our buildings will be either renovated or new. It's going to be good for the campus and exciting for the students. It'll add to campus life. It's a good time to be looking at Murray State."

He said the Hester redesign was done with students in mind - residential and commuter students alike. Even though commuters don't live in the colleges, they're assigned to one, and the university wants them to feel a part of the campus too.

Possibly the most striking addition to Hester Hall is the first thing students will see as they walk through the building's entryway.

Acceptance, unity, diversity, pride and positivity are just a few of the words in a massive word cloud displayed on the entrance wall; all of the words were chosen by Hester students to describe what they felt as part of their residential college.

In just a few short weeks, Hester College will be polished and ready to welcome a new array of Hedgehogs, the college's mascot.

Contact Genevieve Postlethwait, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or at gpostlethwait@paducahsun.com.

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