[UTA Magazine]


Kalpana Chawla Hall
New residence hall to bear late astronaut's name

The University of Texas System Board of Regents has approved a request from the University to name its next residence hall Kalpana Chawla Hall in memory of the UTA alumna who died Feb. 1 aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.

“The decision to name the hall after Kalpana Chawla is to honor a great alumna who gave her life to the world space program,” said Craig Zemmin, director of residential life. “Dr. Chawla has been and continues to be an inspiration to students at UTA and to universities around the world.”

Chawla, who received her master’s degree in aerospace engineering from UTA in 1984, was flight engineer and mission specialist 2 aboard the shuttle, which disintegrated during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. She was responsible for maneuvering the Columbia as part of several experiments in the shuttle’s payload bay.

Selected by NASA in December 1994, she was also the prime robotic arm operator on a 1997 space shuttle mission that focused on how the weightless environment of space affects various physical processes. Born in India, Chawla was the first woman from that nation to travel in space. (See "Kalpana Chawla: 1961-2003" for more information.)

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is expected to vote on UTA’s request for the building in July. Once the University’s request to build the hall at 901 S. Oak St. is fully approved, groundbreaking will likely take place later in the summer.

The new hall will be a living/learning residence, housing 430 students in 16 learning communities clustered according to learning themes or major disciplines. Living/learning communities are residence halls or segments of residence halls in which spaces are dedicated to groups of students who not only live together but attend classes and study together.

In addition to the same amenities offered in Arlington Hall, the new facility will include features specific to a living/learning community: seminar-style rooms for living/learning classes and offices for faculty and advisers to counsel students.

“As we continue our efforts to promote student success at UTA, I see living/learning communities as one of the most vital, meaningful ways to move our students toward academic excellence,” said Honors College Dean Carolyn Barros. “The data indicate that students involved in living/learning communities are more successful academically. They make better grades, develop stronger social and professional skills, develop a network of friends and become more loyal alumni, even after controlling the data for self-selection, high GPA and median family income.”

The pilot program for UTA’s living/learning community was established in fall 2002 in Arlington Hall by the Honors College and the Maverick Scholars Program. There will be three living/learning communities in Arlington Hall this fall and an additional 12 in the new residence hall the following year.

Seventy-five percent of the rooms in the new hall will be three-bedroom suites, and 25 percent will be two-person rooms. The facility will feature common spaces to encourage study and interaction among students, as well as social lounges, study lounges, computer labs and vending areas. Each room will have high-speed Internet connections, metro phone service, card access and expanded cable TV.

The 134,000-square-foot hall is scheduled to be completed by August 2004.

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