Building the Future of University Housing
Alumni Bring School Pride, Unique Insight to Residence Hall ConstructionConstruction home
March 31, 2014 — For many of the workers on University Housing’s newest residence hall project, Wassaja Hall isn't just another construction project. They’ve walked the halls and learned in our classrooms. They have experienced the beauty of a spring afternoon on the Quad, lived in the residence halls, and spent countless hours with friends in dining halls.
One such alumnus, David Puls (’97 FAA), is a project manager for Turner Construction, which has been contracted by the University to provide construction management services for Wassaja Hall. “When you are on a specific project, there is always some sort of attachment, pride, and ownership you have to building that project. But when you have the chance to come back to your alma mater and be a part of the University of Illinois again as a professional, that feeling of pride and ownership reaches a personal level that is beyond just another job,” Puls explains.
Dave Yandel (MS ’91 FAA), vice president with FGM Architects, is the new hall’s design team project manager (he had previously worked as lead architect on Bousfield Hall, the suite-style residence hall that opened fall 2013). At a campus meeting last fall, he had lunch at Allen, the hall where he lived his freshman year. “I could see my old room on the second floor overlooking the courtyard,” he says. Reflecting on his time in Allen, he notes, “I didn’t know my roommate freshman year. We were a random match, and we became best friends. We also became friends with the guys across the hall. Now we are all lifelong friends—in fact, we just got together over the holidays.”
In addition to hall life, the architecture program also helped to foster strong relationships. “Architecture is a small program within the big University system,” Yandel explains, “and I found a very tight-knit group of people. It really helped me find my spot within the University. I never felt lost in the crowd.”
Contributing to the campus landscape instills a sense of pride that he hopes will inspire his young sons (five and seven years old). “They love construction. If they choose to go to U of I, and maybe live in a building I worked on, that would be pretty exciting.”
Beth Wagner (’06 FAA), associate architect at FGM, worked on Bousfield Hall in addition to the newest project. “It was fun coming back to Champaign and getting to see what the campus is like now. Working on a campus construction project allows me to provide a unique perspective on what it’s like to be a student and have some insight on what is best for them.” A Forbes resident her freshman year, Wagner was a member of the Delta Gamma sorority and a regular at the pool at IMPE (now called ARC). Some of her fondest memories, though, are of her time spent in the architecture studio.
When admiring some of the finer details of the new hall, such as interior finishes, you can think of 2007 graduate Becky Franklin (‘07 FAA), who is an architect with FGM. She worked on finishes with the design architect, as well as other interior details. A resident of Taft-Van Doren Hall her freshman year, she was excited to be given the opportunity to work on a project with University Housing. One of her favorite memories is cheering on the unstoppable 2004-2005 Illini basketball team. She remembers rushing down Green Street with a swarm of elated fans when the team defeated Louisville in the Final Four.
Allison Schneider (’10 FAA), an associate architect with FGM, enjoyed the academically focused community at Busey-Evans so much that she lived there for three years. She was active in AIAS (American Institute of Architect Students), Campus Crusade for Christ, Busey-Evans Bible Study, Habitat for Humanity, and Honors Societies. On the Wassaja Halll project she is drafting floor plans and interior details, as well as working on documentation that will later be submitted in the process to obtain LEED certification.
Kyle French (MS ’10 FAA), a project engineer with Ardmore Associates, has had a unique relationship to the recent residence hall projects. Not only did he live in Taft-Van Doren as a student, but he also worked in the dining halls, and then in the Housing Facilities office under Jeff Riddle (University Housing architect) doing AutoCAD work. “It was particularly interesting to see the old dining halls (Gregory and Peabody) coming down,” he says. “It’s rewarding to see it come full circle.” As a project engineer for Wassaja Hall, he reviews most of the submittals for the project, looking at the data for any object going into the building (everything from the mix design for the concrete, to hardware for doors and window frames), ensuring that it meets the architects’ specifications. “If I were able to do it over again and go back to school,” he says, “I would definitely enjoy living in the community environment like we had at TVD.”
Mark Welsh (’04 ENG), senior electrical engineer at KJWW, is the lead electrical engineer for the new hall project, where he leads the electrical portion of the work. Welsh, who lived in Bromley as a freshman, has worked on Memorial Stadium, the second phase of Nugent Hall, and the new Electrical Engineering building. “It’s always nice to go back and see how things are improving and contributing to making it better for students,” he says.
Dave Hanshaw (’90 ENG), a colleague of Welsh’s at KJWW, is a senior electrical engineer. He has helped out with the site electrical for Wassaja Hall, but was also the lead for electrical work on Bousfield. A resident of Daniels Hall in the late 80s, he has noticed a change in amenities and design of newer halls. Today’s students are looking for more privacy and space, and have practical needs for modern appliances like plentiful outlets. “I’ve always enjoyed working on University projects. The first renovation of the stadium in the 1990s was my all-time favorite project. The history behind it, actually going on-site and digging into the project... it was the third project I had done as an electrical engineer."
For all of these alumni, the greatest benefit of working on these projects is the chance to come back to their campus home. “The University shaped me as a young adult and professional,” says Yandel, “so to be able to give back and contribute to the University is very rewarding. These (campus projects) have been hands-down my favorite projects to work on.”
As Puls explains, “For me, I am able to come back to the University that taught me the knowledge I needed to succeed in the business world, and I have a chance to apply that knowledge back where it all started in August 1994 when I was dropped off at the steps of PAR. I’m honored to be working on this project and to be a part of the University again.”