CORVALLIS - The first new residence hall to be built at Oregon State University in nearly 30 years is nearing completion. Halsell Hall is a four-story, L-shaped facility that will house about 210 students in suites and apartment-like rooms. The hall will also include a staff apartment and a faculty apartment - each with three bedrooms and a private entrance.

Construction of the facility, which cost about $9.5 million, began last summer and will be completed by this fall. The contractor for the project is J.E. Dunn Construction, Northwest of Portland.

The new residence hall will open just in time, as OSU's rapidly growing enrollment was stretching on-campus housing to the breaking point. In the last six years, the university's enrollment has gone from about 13,700 students to a projected 19,000 for the coming year.

Student housing demands also are changing, according to Tom Scheuermann, director of OSU's University Housing and Dining Services. Halsell Hall was designed with suites and apartment-like rooms and, like other OSU residence halls, will have a "theme" that helps attract students with compatible interests.

Halsell Hall's will have a "Community Service Learning" theme - a concept that promotes responsible citizenry and integrates experiential, hands-on learning with a student's academic and social experience.

"The objective is to help students make the connection between belief in helping others and acting to influence social change in the hall, around campus, off-campus, and globally," Scheuermann said.

The process for naming the new student residence hall began more than a year ago, and residence hall students supported naming the hall after a notable student - someone considered a "trailblazer" who had to overcome the odds to get an OSU education and then used that education to help others.

OSU officials believe that Carrie Beatrice Halsell (Ward) was the first African-American student to be awarded an undergraduate degree from the school - a B.S. in commerce in 1926 from what was then Oregon Agricultural College. Halsell earlier had graduated from Salem High School in 1921.

Following her graduation from OAC, Halsell moved to Portland where she was employed as a maid for Meier and Frank. "The job opportunities for African-Americans in Oregon in the mid-1920s were rather limited," Scheuermann said.

So in 1927, Halsell moved to Virginia where she took a position as assistant to the Registrar at Virginia Normal Industrial Institute (Virginia State University). Within several years, she became a business instructor, a career path she followed for the rest of her life. She retired from South Carolina State University in 1968.

A dedication ceremony to celebrate Carrie Halsell and the new residence hall named after her will be held at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 16, directly south of Halsell Hall. OSU President Paul Risser, Vice Provost Larry Roper, professor and performing artist Michael Ingram, and others will speak at the dedication.

The event is free and open to the public. Among the guests expected to attend are Halsell's niece and other family members who live in Oklahoma, Georgia and Texas.

In addition, regional representatives from the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, of which Halsell was a charter member at Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute in 1929, will be in attendance.

Guided tours of the residence will take place directly following the dedication.

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Tom Scheuermann, 541-737-0998