You might not know it without some research, but the University of Virginia, which prides itself on its deserved reputation for the excellence of its entire study body, also now provides special honors housing for Echols Scholars in arts and sciences and Rodman Scholars in engineering.
Good housing is especially important for UVA freshmen because they are required to live in campus housing during their first year.
The “New Dorms” on Alderman Road–the name comes from the fact that they were built “recently,” in the 1960s–have been remodeled. The two halls for honor students are Balz-Dobie and Watson-Webb; seven other halls make up the Alderman Road Residence Area.
The two honors halls house about 460 students. Though not as conveniently located as the “Old Dorms” on McCormick Road, the New Dorms have air conditioning; the Old Dorms are smaller and have no AC. The Alderman Road Area is still a good location, however, better than most others outside the Old Dorm area. There is also a commons between the two honors halls.
A UVA official told the campus paper that “the buildings add something to the residential experience.” They are “very rich in spaces that allow for social gathering and in support of academic pursuits,” she said. On the first floor of each building, the paper reports, there are “multiple lounges for private study, multipurpose rooms and a large open lounge that can be partitioned into two smaller spaces, along with laundry and vending areas.”
Rooms are configured so that up to five double bedrooms share a large bath area, so that only 10 or so students are involved versus the 30 or more that sometimes have to share corridor baths. There is a separate study room that allows one or more students to hit the books without disturbing their roommates. Some of the rooms even have balconies.
The New Dorms for honors students have received their share of attention on campus. A student reviewer expresses both the admiration and the jealousy felt by some UVA students:
“I have personally been in [Balz-Dobie] and it is a hotel. The toilets flush up and down (up for #1, down for #2), have motion-sensitive lighting, and beautiful lounges. I believe they are LED-certified buildings, and this statement makes me jealous: ‘The air handler has an energy recovery wheel that captures the heat from exhaust air and recycles it, and the whole precinct is fed by steam from McCormick Road and chilled water from the Aquatic and Fitness Center.’ It’s like the environmentally-friendly version of caviar and Perrier.”