Students enter the newly opened Stanton Hall

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This fall, 150 sophomores have a brand-new place to call home: Stanton Hall, the first student residence built on campus in nearly 50 years.

Cleveland Commons, a 500-seat dining facility expected to open its doors later this semester, represents yet another cornerstone of the Living at Whitman Initiative, launched by the Board of Trustees in 2015.

"An inspiring moment for me was giving the four RAs who work in Stanton Hall a tour last May," said Associate Dean of Students Nancy Tavelli, who has been involved in the project since its inception. "Their enthusiasm and excitement was wonderful. What I had started to take for granted after all this planning, they focused on -- the large windows, the spectacular main lounge and the beauty of the setting."

Sporting sleek solar panels, cedar ceilings, all-natural gas fireplaces and a luxurious layout, the new space is a sight to behold. Named in honor of cellular industry pioneer John Stanton '77, it comprises three wings with three floors each and features a mix of double and single rooms. Both Stanton Hall and Cleveland Commons, named for retired Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland, were designed by Portland-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects, the firm behind the Prentiss Hall and Science Building renovations.

Stanton Hall was built with the goal of achieving LEED Platinum certification. Features include 1.5 solar panels per occupant, electric vehicle charging stations, LED bulbs throughout, and low-flow water fixtures.

Funded through generous support from alumni, parents and friends of the college, the new buildings grew out of research suggesting sophomores would benefit from more community-focused accommodations. At Whitman, first-years live in just four residence halls, with about 70 percent assigned to either Anderson or Jewett Hall. Sophomores, however, were scattered between more than 20 locations, which led to some feeling less engaged. According to residence life staff, a survey also found that sophomores who live in Whitman's Interest House Community or Greek housing tend to regard their experience more positively than those who do not, further underscoring the need for stronger support systems.

"This new hall will bring sophomores together into a space that is intentionally designed to create interpersonal connections and a stronger sense of sophomore community, both through architectural design and sophomore programming," said Andrew Johnson '09, assistant director of residence life and housing.

The new dining hall is likewise intended to offer a more inclusive environment for all Whitties, with extended hours and a variety of food options available throughout the day.

"It will be a space where students, staff and faculty will be able to meet, study and hang out together," Johnson said. "Because people won't have to use a meal swipe to get into the building like our previous dining model, folks can accompany each other into the space even if one person is getting a full meal and the other only wants a coffee or just wants to tag along for fun or to continue a conversation."

For Tavelli, this emphasis on interaction is central to the mission of residence life.

"I feel strongly that this will increase connections between the classes and give both sophomores in Stanton Hall and all our students in Cleveland Commons opportunities they have not had before," she said. "I am proud to have been a part of a project that is truly transformational."

See more photos and a video of students moving in to Stanton.