UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Fighting Hawks get giant new nest

UND celebrates grand opening of University’s most recent improvements to student living

This photo from August 2023 shows students moving a large TV into newly opened West Hall. After 22 months of planning, design and construction, the Wilkerson Quad and the adjacent Landing Zone officially were open for the fall 2023 semester. UND archival photo.

Editor’s note: At UND, “we recognize the vital role the physical and online campus environments have in influencing behavior, impacting success, and building traditions,” the Affinity core value of the UND LEADS Strategic Plan declares. With that in mind over the past few years, the University undertook a major renovation of its housing landscape; and on Oct. 12, UND Today reported the results in the story below.


“My two favorite tools are shovels and giant scissors,” quipped UND President Andy Armacost as he welcomed a crowd of attendees to the grand opening of the Wilkerson Quad. “Today, we’re going to use those giant scissors to cut the ribbon and really dedicate this space.”

On Friday, Oct. 6, UND administrators cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the Wilkerson Quad. This newly renovated space is expected to provide an upgraded environment for students to make memories, friendships and find personal fulfillment as they learn at UND.

As part of the University’s Homecoming 2023 programming, the ribbon-cutting ceremony marked a momentous occasion for the project’s collaborators and the students who now have access to the communal space. After 22 months of planning, design and construction, the Wilkerson Quad and the adjacent Landing Zone officially were open for the fall 2023 semester.

A new clearing for Hawks to land

The Landing Zone, a spacious lounge area connecting Brannon, West and McVey halls to the Wilkerson Commons, was the gathering space for the ceremony. A large group of attendees congregated around the couches, desks and lounge seats of the student space to celebrate its official opening.

“I’m so proud that we can give our students first-class housing to live here at UND to match the world-class education experiences and extracurricular opportunities that we provide,” said Armacost. “I’m so proud of the team.”

Just outside the Landing Zone, the Wilkerson Quad is a blank slate for student socializing and activities. A 1.7-acre courtyard with tables, chairs and lounge furniture on the periphery, the Quad gives students the ability to study, picnic and toss footballs just a short walk from their residence halls.

Troy Noeldner, director of UND Housing & Residence Life, emphasized that they intentionally designed the space to encourage the social and communal aspects of on-campus living, stating, “These residence halls are not just buildings; they are homes where lifelong friendships will be forged, and where learning will be nurtured.”

hawk mascot and attendees
UND’s Fighting Hawk mascot joined the crowd to watch the ribbon cutting in the new Landing Zone. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

UND upgrades residence hall living for students

The Quad and Landing Zone are located conveniently at the center of the trio of residence halls. The communal spaces are just a part of the more extensive, ongoing student housing update, which seeks to improve and modernize on-campus living for students.

In the past two years, three of the five dorms to the west of the English Coulee have undergone extensive renovations and rebuilds. Brannon and McVey, for example, received extensive remodels and opened last year. This year, West Hall joined them in opening after its demolition and rebuild.

UND Housing & Residence Life welcomed guests to take self-guided tours of West Hall following the ceremony, with student resident assistants ready to point them in the right direction. A staged showroom displayed one of the new hall’s rooms, showcasing the comfortable quarters, recreational spaces and kitchens placed on each floor of the building.

West Hall’s redesign manages to be reminiscent of its former self while upgrading the building with modern aesthetics and conveniences. The cramped feelings of older residence halls are remedied by the hall’s tall ceilings and large windows, which allow plenty of natural light to fill the foyer even on a gloomy October day.

Convenience is one of the main draws of the new residence hall. In addition to large common areas and communal kitchens on each floor, West is just a short walk away from Wilkerson Commons, through the Landing Zone via indoor tunnels.

fire pit in quad
Just outside the newly opened Landing Zone, the Quad features a large fire pit and plenty of furniture to lounge and study in. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

New spaces are a testament to ‘holistic development’

The rooms are cozy, and the showroom’s tall windows bring plenty of light into the space. Yet, these new projects are about more than having more comfortable places to sleep.

During the ceremony, Vice President for Student Affairs Art Malloy reminisced about meeting his wife in a residence hall and said he hoped the new student spaces would offer current and future Fighting Hawks the opportunity to make similar connections as they progress through school.

“While education is at the heart of our mission, we recognize that impactful learning also occurs beyond textbooks and lectures,” Malloy said.

“It occurs when students interact, build relationships and discuss their common and sometimes very different experiences. Our new residence halls are designed with this purpose in mind, and they are a testament to our dedication to holistic development.”

dorm room
West Hall’s rooms fit two students. Each room is in a two-room suite that also contains two bathrooms. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

The students present at the event were enthusiastic about their newfound access to the facilities. In particular, West’s revamp seems to have profoundly enhanced student living.

Sierra, a resident assistant for West Hall, noted that she’d lived in UND’s dorms for three years before moving to West. She said that, so far, this has been her best residence hall experience at UND.

“I’ve really liked it here so far, the updates have made a big difference,” she said. “My favorite part has been the air conditioning; it makes it a lot more comfortable.”

With its nearly 60-year legacy, West has a significant place in campus history, and the completion of its renovation marks a historic improvement to student life. To commemorate its modernization, Noeldner announced the creation of a time capsule in West Hall, paying homage to the evolution of campus living spaces.

“The time capsule represents part of our history and our present, so future students can catch up with those who paved the way before,” Noeldner said.

The Landing Zone, Wilkerson Quad and West Hall openings are just the latest developments in UND’s mission to improve student life in and outside of the classroom. They come with the promise to offer students the opportunity to develop themselves on their journeys of personal growth for generations to come.

While this is a major milestone, Housing & Residence Life’s Housing Improvement Project doesn’t stop here. Swanson, Noren and Selke all are planned to receive updates in the near future.


>> QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS about the UND LEADS Strategic Plan? Your thoughts are welcome! Please contact Angie Carpenter, UND’s director of Special Student Populations, and/or Ryan Zerr, associate vice president for Strategy & Implementation, the co-chairs of the UND LEADS Implementation Committee.

You also may offer your thoughts by visiting the UND LEADS Strategic Plan home page and clicking on the “Provide your feedback” link that you’ll find there.

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