UMSL students in the Pierre Laclede Honors College Living and Learning Community

Sharing a light-hearted moment in the Pierre Laclede Honors College Living and Learning Community are (from left) Ryan Brooks, Michael Weaver, Evan Loveless, Heath Summers, Marissa Sutherland and Hung Nguyen. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Some walls of fame are for athletic dominance.

Others are for academic success. But one elite display of greatness is for those brave enough to karaoke at the late-night pancake and pajama party during finals week or join the ranks of Triton Sound, the university pep band.

It’s a collection of UMSL stars. And it’s in the dorm room of sophomore Melissa Roth from Russellville, Mo.

The criminology and criminal justice major moved into Oak Hall in spring 2013 and happily re-upped to live on campus for a second year.

She enjoys Oak Hall’s heated swimming pool, study lounges, rehearsal rooms with pianos, peer mentor labs and a walking commute that takes 15 minutes, max, to her classes or her job at the Welcome Center in the Millennium Student Center.

But that’s not what she likes most. “Living on campus has really helped with the transition between a small town and St. Louis,” Roth says. “I honestly think that the reason why I have such a big group of friends and that I’m so involved in all the programs is because living on campus makes all of these activities so convenient.”

UMSL student sin Oak Hall

UMSL students (from left) Melissa Roth, Katlynn Huber and Katryn Dierksen hang out in an Oak Hall room. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Roth has a lot of company.

“All of our housing options opened fully occupied for the first time, which shows the growing student involvement that is taking place at UMSL,” says Jonathan Lidgus, director of Residential Life and Housing at UMSL. “This is especially important as the residential life experience is shown to result in higher grade-point averages and to promote positive on-track graduation rates.”

Chemistry major Hung Nguyen can relate. After living off campus for his first two years, Nguyen grew tired of his 16-hour days commuting to and from south St. Louis and opted to move on campus.

Now a resident of Villa Hall’s upperclassmen Honors College Living and Learning Community, Nguyen can put the time he used to spend commuting toward even more activities like reporting for the student newspaper, The Current, going to campus events and occasionally participating in intramural sports.

But one of the greatest benefits he sees to living on campus is being part of the academic community at Villa Hall.

“You’re motivated to study when you see others working hard around you,” says Nguyen. “Sometimes our kitchen even doubles as a big study room.”

Across campus, another kitchen contributes to education. Maria van der Walt likes to cook in her Mansion Hills apartment so that she and her husband, Tjaart, can take their meals with them to campus.

The South African couple has long days at UMSL. She’s working on her doctorate in mathematics and he on his master’s in computer science. They both believe that living on campus has helped their academic careers.

“Some of our fellow students can only get to campus once a week,” said Tjaart van der Walt. “I think that impedes their progress because they don’t get to talk to their professors often.”

“Even on days when I don’t have any classes, it’s nice to go to campus and work there,” said Maria van der Walt . “You get more done on campus – research, printing or talking to your adviser.”

The Opportunity Scholars Program, which included money for living on campus, brought junior Briona Perry to UMSL. At the time, she recalls being one of only a few from her Francis Howell North graduating class who chose UMSL. But thanks to her great experience living on campus, she began recruiting future UMSL students.

Her younger brother enrolled in fall 2013. And he lives on campus.

Residents agree that the best piece of advice for students considering living on campus is to jump in and try everything that campus life has to offer.

Try the fantastic chicken po’ boy at the dining hall in Provincial House (“Pro-Ho” – as the kids call it these days). Catch a step show at the Pilot House. Support the basketball team on Pack the Stands Night. And be sure to share those stories of success.

This story was originally published in the spring 2014 issue of UMSL Magazine.

The UMSL Experience

Laurisa Mahlin

Laurisa Mahlin