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SMC juniors consider housing opportunities

Laura Baumgartner | Friday, March 10, 2006

Senior year is a time for many students to start preparing for life in the real world as most begin searching for jobs and seek more independence by moving off-campus. For some seniors, however, off-campus housing is not an option, and Saint Mary’s accommodates these students with unique living opportunities in Opus Apartments and Annunciata Hall.

Apartments in Opus are limited and now that the room selection process for the residence halls is beginning, seniors who were not selected in the lottery for Opus are assessing other options – like living in Annunciata.

Annunciata is the fourth floor of Holy Cross Hall, which is exclusively open to members of the senior class.

The floor was established the fall semester of 1995 after Augusta Hall – a dorm that was traditionally open solely to seniors – was closed.

“[Augusta] Hall, which is part of the convent, used to house all seniors,” Michelle Russell, director of Residence Life, said. “After it closed, the College still wanted to offer seniors a unique living opportunity. Therefore the fourth floor of Holy Cross was opened to just seniors and it was called Annunciata.”

The floor is named after Mother M. Annunciata McSheffery, who was the Directress of the Academy at Saint Mary’s in 1872 and the Superior General of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1892. A picture of McSheffery and a plaque hang on the wall of the Annunciata lounge mark the dedication of the floor on Feb. 4, 1996.

“The purpose of having a floor like Annunciata is the same as having an apartment building just for seniors,” Russell said. “You want to offer them something unique and give them the privilege of living with only members of their class. It creates a special community on the floor that I believe seniors have been very happy with.”

Many students view living in Annunciata as an opportunity to form stronger bonds with members of their class during their last year at Saint Mary’s.

“I think that if I were to live off-campus or even in Opus that I would feel too disconnected from campus,” junior Katie Osmack said.

The unique environment Annunciata presents Saint Mary’s students also offers a very different experience for the resident assistants (RAs) who serve the floor.

“I served as RA on the second floor of Holy Cross last year and really valued the experience and knowledge gained from the position,” senior Shannon Culbertson said. “My section last year was mostly juniors and sophomores, so it is a change to have only seniors.”

“Generally, the seniors in my section need less day to day guidance, but we all rely on each other for community and sharing experiences,” she said.

More freedom and less guidance is something many seniors look for when considering their options for housing. However, the independence of moving off-campus offers is not an option for all students.

“I applied for Opus Hall and did not get in, which was very hard for my friend and I who had hoped to live there for some time,” junior Lauren Knisley said. “Related to finances and financial aid taking a significant amount of money away from my grants if I move off campus, I am considering Annunciata.”

Knisley said while she enjoyed living in Holy Cross her freshman year, she is not as excited about living in the dorm as a senior, especially since many of her friends will be moving off-campus.

“I was really looking forward to living in an off-campus like environment because it allowed me to have that sense of independence that all seniors need and deserve. I am ready to grow up and pay utility bills, cook my own meals, and go my own way, but I suppose that will have to wait for another year,” she said.

While Annunciata does not offer as much freedom as some seniors would prefer, it does have other advantages, including a reputation for being a quieter environment than other residence hall floors. Many members of the senior class are required to wake up early for student teaching, nursing or other jobs, making a quieter living space more desirable.

“Generally, the hallway is similar to the other floors in Holy Cross. At times it is quieter because there are many people living in singles who are on different schedules with student teaching, internships and field placements,” Culbertson said.

The floor’s other attractions include access to a lounge featuring couches and a big screen television, another lounge equipped with a microwave and refrigerator and unlike the limited access granted to other Holy Cross residents, Annunciata residents are able to enter the dorm through the side door 24 hours a day.

Having a floor with only seniors also offers another unique social factor.

“After all of the residents turn 21, there is the opportunity for section events with alcohol, monitored closely by the RAs,” Culbertson said.

While some students view living in Annunciata as a senior privilege, others do not find the environment desirable.

“When I didn’t get into Opus my friend and I went to look at Annunciata with high expectations, because many of our friends had told us that it was the best place for seniors to live on campus,” junior Kelly McDavitt said. “After evaluating the floor we were very disappointed. It was dark, the rooms were smaller than we had expected, everyone had their doors closed and we didn’t see anyone in the hallway.

“Overall we just didn’t feel there were many advantages to living up there,” she said.