CORVALLIS - The residents of Oregon State University's Finley Hall might be a little more hale and hearty than the typical college student, but when it comes to games of Jeopardy!, don't bet against the denizens of McNary Hall.
"Cluster" or theme housing has become a growing trend in college and university residence halls around the country, and OSU is no exception.
This fall, about half of the university's newly remodeled McNary Hall will be reserved for students in OSU's University Honors College. Finley, tabbed a few years ago as the "Wellness Hall," is OSU's most popular residence hall option.
The university also has a Students in Engineering cluster (two floors in Wilson Hall), a graduate student hall (Hawley), and one hall that is nicknamed the diversity hall (Cauthorn) for its emphasis on cultural awareness and diversity education.
Another cluster, West International House, will close this year for remodeling and reopen in 1997.
"A number of other groups are exploring this type of cluster housing, including the Indian Education Office," said Paulette Ratchford, assistant director of housing at OSU. "They are very popular and tend to be more successful if the impetus for them comes from academic units or the students themselves instead of the housing office."
OSU officials are particularly excited about the development of McNary Hall. As part of a $3.2 million renovation, McNary will have student meeting rooms, lounges, a pair of classrooms and offices for Honors College faculty.
"One of the things we are trying to do is build a bridge between two separate worlds - academic life and residence life," said Jon "Joe" Hendricks, director of the Honors College. "The retention of students often has as much to do with social factors as it does scholastic ones."
OSU's Honors College, which opened last fall, has proved to be enormously popular with students. The dedicated residence hall space, which eventually may expand to include the entire hall, was the next logical step.
"What we hope to provide is a small college environment within the larger university," Hendricks said. "We'll have weekly dinners, faculty speakers, and survival skills workshops, as well as informal activities."
Cluster housing can be effective because it puts students with common interests together, said Tom Scheuermann, director of OSU's Housing and Dining Services. As part of the remodeling, both McNary and West halls will have study lounges where students can work in groups.
OSU's upgrading of residence halls began two years ago when all of the rooms were wired for computer access to the Internet.
Now students are playing a key role in the planning and designing of residence hall renovations - including at McNary, where they helped select the furnishings and provided input on how best to use the available space.
Further changes are planned, pending funding, Scheuermann said. Stately old Weatherford Hall, a campus landmark and once popular residence hall, has been shut down for three years awaiting major renovation. About $15 million is needed to bring the enormous facility - it has more than 100,000 square feet - up to code. Built in 1928, Weatherford needs new plumbing, wiring and structural repairs.
However, its unusual configuration - with many nooks, crannies and unusually shaped rooms - could make Weatherford an ideal candidate for new options in residential life housing, Scheuermann said.
Information about OSU's student housing is available by calling 541-737-4771.