By Marc R. Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing
Student Natalia Chersia De Leon is thrilled about the chance to live in the new residence hall rising above USF Sarasota-Manatee, and not just because it will save her from the 40-minute commute between her home in Palmetto and campus.
“I really like the community here a lot. Everyone knows everyone,” said Chersia De Leon, a sophomore psychology major from Miami. “Being among the first to live on campus is super cool because you’re making history.”
Chersia De Leon, who is active on campus as a peer mentor, orientation adviser and a member of the Campus Activities Board, was among the first students in line when USF Housing this fall began accepting applications for the 200 available beds in the residence hall, which is scheduled to open for the fall 2024 semester.
The top four floors of the six-story building under construction on the south side of the campus courtyard adjacent to the Selby Auditorium and Crosley Campus Center, will consist of suite-style and apartment-style residences. The first and second floors will be home to a new student center, making space for new and existing student services that have outgrown their quarters elsewhere on campus.
USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook said the progress in construction of the student center and residence hall has created an unprecedented buzz on campus, noting the dozens of faculty members and staff who recently were able to tour part of the building site. The excitement, she said, will reach new levels the closer to when students like Chersia De Leon are able to move into their new on-campus homes.
“The student center and residence hall are designed entirely to help our students create a new type of experience, a new type of community on the Sarasota-Manatee campus,” Holbrook said. “I am thrilled that we are now able to offer our students this wonderful opportunity.”
Students' excitement builds
Chersia De Leon, who applied for a spot in a two-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment, said she learned about plans for the new building when she arrived on campus last spring for her orientation. She has eagerly watched the progress of the project since its groundbreaking in March.
“Every day, I know there is going to be a new addition to the building,” she said. “It makes me even more excited.”
Also looking forward to the new building are students Isabelle Sorensen and Lauren Pellegrino, who plan to room together in one of the building’s double suites, which includes two beds and a bathroom.
“I want to live on campus because it will allow me to have a bigger connection with people on campus — the students, professors and staff,” said Sorensen, a sophomore biomedical sciences major involved in several student activities, including working as a campus tour guide. “Having the ability to live on campus and be around those people more often will be great.”
“I love the campus. I love the community feel. I love being here,” said Pellegrino, a junior biology major who also works as a tour guide. "So, living here just sounds like a very fun way to spend my senior year.”
Neither Pellegrino nor Sorenson was aware of plans to build a residence hall when they decided to enroll at USF Sarasota-Manatee. They each live with their respective families about 25 minutes from campus.
Sorenson said she now wants to enjoy a fuller college experience by living on a campus that she already considers to be her “second home.”
“I’m already here from 9 to 5 every single day, so it would be nice to be here all the time and start building more of a community,” Sorensen said.
“It's really going to change the entire environment that we have,” Pellegrino said. “Going from a commuter campus to having students live on campus is a really big change and a really exciting change.”
USF Sarasota-Manatee will no longer be just a 'commuter school'
The opening of the housing application process is the latest milestone for the $42 million, 100,000-square-foot project — the first major expansion of the campus since it opened in 2006 — that promises to remove USF Sarasota-Manatee's moniker as a “commuter school” and reshape the look and feel of the campus, located along U.S. 41 between Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and Sarasota Bay.
Like Chersia De Leon, Sorensen said she has enjoyed witnessing the construction of the building and the sense of anticipation it has generated among students. That excitement, she and Pellegrino said, is shared by the prospective students and parents they lead on tours of the campus.
“We get a lot of juniors and seniors in high school, so, they're excited that it's going to be open in time for them to live there,” Pellegrino said. “They're asking questions about dining and what's going to be involved in the new building.”
Sorensen said many visiting prospective students are from out of state or don’t have family in the area, and USF Sarasota-Manatee gets “bumped off their radar,” when they realize there currently isn’t on-campus housing.
“But knowing that we’re going to have a residence hall pretty soon is attracting a lot of people,” she said.
The new residences come in three configurations:
- A double suite, which includes a bathroom, for $1,297 a month, or $5,188 a semester.
- A two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, for $1,648 a semester, or $6,592 a semester.
- A four-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, for $1,505 a semester, or $6,020 a semester.
USF Housing officials will begin notifying students of their housing assignments in the spring.
Also available are new and innovative dining options on the first floor of the new building that also will be available for the whole campus community and meal plans for residents. The dining hall will be much larger that the Café in the Crosley Campus Center. The Café will be renovated and continue to serve as a teaching lab for students in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
Student center will include dining hall, campus bookstore
The 32,000-square-foot student center will be filled with amenities, some of which residents will share with non-resident students, that will make it feel like home. In addition to the dining hall, there will be laundry facilities, a mail center and a game room, as well as meeting rooms and study lounges, a campus bookstore and offices for student government and USF World.
Sorensen and Pellegrino said they are especially excited about the new bookstore. The current bookstore is along U.S. 41, south of the campus.
“It’s really annoying having our bookstore down the road,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen said she hopes current and prospective students who love USF Sarasota-Manatee as much as she and Pellegrino do, join them in the unique experience of building a new community as part of the first cohort to live on campus.
“Just think about it and consider it,” Sorensen said. “We have 200 beds to fill.”
For more information about housing at USF Sarasota-Manatee, including how students can apply, visit https://www.sarasotamanatee.usf.edu/housing/