[UTA Magazine]


The good life
A dramatic increase in campus residents has energized student life and boosted school spirit, creating a more traditional college atmosphere

by Mark Permenter

Tova Charles shuts the door to her third-floor Arlington Hall suite, strolls down the tan-colored hallway and hops on the elevator. She reaches the ground, veers left and within seconds disappears into a throng of more than 3,000 students at the annual Activities Fair Day/Maverick Cookout.

Tova Charles standing outside Arlington Hall
Living in Arlington Hall allows Tova Charles to experience the richness of campus life. "I'm always doing something," says the freshman from Austin.

It’s the third class day of the fall 2002 semester, and the cookout is cooking. Fairgoers stacked four and five deep strain to see what’s being offered at the tables and booths of the 108 organizations lining the University Center mall.

"These students want the total college experience, and there's no better way for them to get that than by living on campus."
-Residential life Director Craig Zemmin

On one end, armor-clad members of the Society for Creative Anachronism re-enact a pre-17th-century battle. On the other end, the Society of Automotive Engineers revs its award-winning Formula SAE race car. Packed in between, fraternities and sororities, international and cultural organizations, professional societies and religious, service and special interest groups vie for attention.

2002 Activities Fair Day/Maverick Cookout
The 2002 Activities Fair Day/Maverick Cookout drew more than 3,000 students to the UC mall.
The Shorthorn: Marc Roberts)

The crowd, officials estimate, is the largest in the 21-year history of the event and one of the biggest campus gatherings in recent memory. Right in the big middle of it, Charles is having a ball.

“I met some people there who have really taken care of me since I’ve been here. They have been my second family here,” said the 18-year-old freshman from Austin. “I care for them very much and wouldn’t know what to do without them.”

UTA was at the top of Charles’ list of colleges long before she took her first class in August. The summer after her sophomore year in high school, she attended a UTA camp for color guard members and fell in love with the place: “It’s a beautiful campus and not too big or too small. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Others agree. Enrollment reached a 10-year high of 23,821 last fall, and more students than ever are living on campus, especially traditional-aged freshmen like Charles. The average age of students living in residence halls is around 19, down from 24 or 25 a few years ago.

“These students want the total college experience, and there’s no better way for them to get that than by living on campus,” said Craig Zemmin, director of residential life. “They’re in the middle of everything; they’re never bored.”

Charles’ first choice for campus housing was Arlington Hall, a 597-bed facility that opened in fall 2000. Its amenities include high-speed Internet connections and deluxe cable TV in each room, a fitness center, computer lab, billiard and game tables, and basketball and sand volleyball courts.

Her favorite feature, however, is her own private bedroom, something she had grown accustomed to as an only child. When she feels like socializing with her two suitemates, she steps outside her bedroom door into a common living area.

“The suites are very popular,” Zemmin noted. “Students like to be able to hang out with their roommates, but they also like to be able to go to their own rooms and close the door.”

Charles has kept the door open to many opportunities
on campus. She’s a UTA Ambassador and a member of the Maverick Maniacs spirit group, and she’s involved in planning Homecoming activities.

“When people say they have nothing to do, that’s a lie,” she said. “There’s always something to do.” Bowling in the University Center, playing billiards in Arlington Hall and watching the Mavericks play volleyball and basketball—all fill her social calendar.

As did this year’s Midnight Madness.

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