Make yourself at home

Campus can feel overwhelming at first, but new student spaces are making it feel a little more like home.


(Edmonton) Thousands of University of Alberta students live in residence every year—but especially during exam time, it can feel like living on campus is a reality for everyone. Three new spaces are making life on campus a little more comfortable this fall.

“Students will use these places to live and study in, to hang out, meet new people and make friends—all of which are crucial parts of building their sense of community at the U of A,” says Robin Everall, interim vice-provost and dean of students. “We offer an outstanding experience for all students at the U of A, and each of these new spaces will make a great contribution to that experience.”

"These new spaces help the U of A achieve its academic mission by allowing students to find their place on campus—a home away from home where they can study, live and get together," says Don Hickey, vice-president (facilities and operations).

SUB atrium: Let there be light

When you walk into the new atrium in the Students’ Union Building, the first thing you notice is the light. A new south-facing, two-storey glass wall opens up the basement and first floor of the building, with a large patio space opening up the lower level to the outdoors. Combined with light wood and bright-coloured furniture, the space feels bright and energetic, and even full of people, it feels welcoming and comfortable. On the upper level, the new glass wall allows more light into the existing student lounge and food court areas, making them feel larger and more airy.

Downstairs, along with colourful tables and chairs that feel almost like what you’d see in your stylish friend’s breakfast nook, new office spaces have been created for Students’ Union services and campus clubs, making access to services easier. The Undergrind and SUB Print are updated and open on to the new space, and renovated bathrooms include a private, accessible all-gender bathroom. The lower level also features a separate quiet room with softer lighting and lots of sofas, likely to become the most popular napping destination on campus.

Probably the most striking feature is the terraced lounge area that runs alongside the stairs to the second level in the atrium, with groupings of sofas, armchairs and coffee tables making it look like several tiers of comfortable living rooms filled with friends (even with built-in power outlets for students’ electronic devices).

"SUB is my favourite place on campus. It's really the heart of campus, if not the ‘living room,’” says Students’ Union president Navneet Khinda. “It's one of the only buildings entirely dedicated to student space and services, which are so important for our well-being. And we just completed our renovations, so we have a brand new patio area with beautiful seating areas inside and out!"

PAW Centre: Setting the bar high

Looking out across from the atrium, you can see the PAW Centre. Created through a partnership between the U of A and the Students’ Union, Graduate Students’ Association, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, and the Government of Alberta, with generous philanthropic support by alumni Dick and Carol Wilson, the facility includes both new and renovated components.

“The Physical Activity and Wellness Centre is brand new and an amazing place for students to get fit and feel healthy. PAW is a project initiated and carried out by undergrad and grad students at the U of A—we're very proud of it!” notes Khinda.

The striking, funnel-shaped new building on the corner of 114 Street and 87 Avenue includes two new activity spaces. The Wilson Climbing Centre, which is the reason for the facility’s unique, outwardly sloped walls, includes some of the highest climbing structures in the country, with bouldering, top-rope, and lead climbing features that add up to 42 high wall routes and 88 bouldering problems.

The Hanson Fitness and Lifestyle Centre, the second part of the new building, offers nearly four times the space of the old centre, with 175 new pieces of equipment. The centre’s large glass windows and modernized air systems make the gym feel more inviting, and with green features like a photovoltaic solar shade system, recycled materials, LED lighting and solar thermal heating, it’s as healthy for the environment as it is for users.

The second part of the PAW Centre is the Social Street space that runs through from north to south, connecting the new building with the existing Universiade Pavilion (better known as the Butterdome), Van Vliet Complex and University Hall. The space allows students to move between and through the buildings, but it also offers room to gather, with lounge spaces to hang out or study with classmates, healthy food options for that post-workout snack, and a great new space for the Sports Wall of Fame, which honours the contributions of U of A builders and athletes who’ve earned their place on the provincial, national and international sporting stage.

St. Joseph’s Women’s Residence: A room of one’s own

The third new addition, and the one that is more like home than any other, is the new St. Joseph’s College Women’s Residence, which offers residence space for 284 female students in the heart of the university’s north campus. The residence is open to full-time U of A students, regardless of cultural, spiritual or academic background, with the choice of studio, two-bedroom or four-bedroom units. The new building offers students a high sense of safety and support, with 24-hour security and controlled access to shared living areas so that only residents and their guests can use those spaces, and after-hours assistance from Residence Life assistants who help to build a safe and welcoming community. Along with an in-residence chapel inspired by the Indigenous saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the building offers study and common areas on each floor, laundry facilities and a wellness room.

East Campus Village expands

Along with the new women’s residence, two new houses opened this fall in the East Campus Village. Linden House offers a co-ed living environment for undergraduate students, while Alder House offers a co-ed space specifically for students in the Faculty of Law just a short walk from the Law Centre, allowing them to foster relationships with other law students, access knowledgeable upper-year law students and interact with faculty members. Both buildings offer fully furnished rooms and shared kitchen and living spaces.

"Living in residence is a great way to get to know the U of A, since opportunities are literally right at students' doorsteps,” says Khinda.

“Student experience is something that only students can really define, and by living in residence you get to immerse yourself in creating a fantastic student environment."

Future spaces

Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering (ICE)

On the eighth floor of the tallest building on North Campus, the Fred Pheasey Student Common features floor-to-ceiling windows affording a spectacular view of the river valley and downtown Edmonton.

Founders’ Hall (Augustana Campus)

Augustana’s landmark building will undergo a renovation to replace some deteriorating wood siding. The project will maintain the original look and feel of the building, while bringing new life into the existing facility.

Peter Lougheed Hall

The home of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College will include 143 bed spaces for residents, fitness and recreation rooms, a dining hall and spaces for social gatherings, lectures and seminars.

ALES Atrium 

The renovation of the beloved atrium will create a signature location for the faculty and university in the Agriculture/Forestry Centre. Students, staff and visitors will find an oasis of peace, beauty and tranquility—a quiet escape from the campus hustle and bustle.