Campus residence offers Catholic values to women

Enjoying a vantage point from the residence's seventh floor are former Kateri House resident Samantha Kuchera, left, women's resident director Emily Dayboll, seated, and men's resident director Scott Cramer.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Enjoying a vantage point from the residence's seventh floor are former Kateri House resident Samantha Kuchera, left, women's resident director Emily Dayboll, seated, and men's resident director Scott Cramer.

September 14, 2015
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

When Jodi Antonio arrived in Edmonton from Edson to start her first year at the University of Alberta, the anxious nursing student did not look far for friends.

Following in the footsteps of her older sisters, Antonio opted to live in Kateri House, the U of A's Catholic women's residence. She was one of just 14 students in the house located in a stairwell of the U of A's HUB Mall.

"My first year coming to university I was kind of worried," said Antonio. "But when I entered, I had this community already here. I already had people I could be friends with and be involved with. So the first year I didn't have to search for it. The community came to me."

Now in her fourth year of studies, Antonio moved into a much bigger home and community of women - St. Joseph's College's new women's residence.

The seven-floor building situated in the heart of the U of A campus has room to house 284 students.

"It's a big change from our small community of 14 people to 284," said Antonio.

She is still getting used to the huge expansion. "It could be a little scary, but it's just sharing what we've got - in our community, our friendships, how much we were able to enjoy university because of the Catholic residence."

The building has a total of 115 suites, including a mix of one-, two- and four-bedroom units.

As of the grand opening on Sept. 3, 155 women had registered to live at the new residence, with applications still being accepted.

While the Christian foundation is a major draw for many students, including Antonio, the percentage of student residents that are Catholic is unknown, said Marc Neal, chief administration officer at St. Joseph's College.

U of A nursing student Jodi Antonio enjoys the sense of community St. Joseph's College Women's Residence offers its students

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

U of A nursing student Jodi Antonio enjoys the sense of community St. Joseph's College Women's Residence offers its students

Students are welcome to apply, regardless of their cultural, spiritual or academic backgrounds.

"Being a Catholic college with a Catholic women's residence, we're an open-arm community," said Neal.

"We'll accept anyone if they want to live by those Catholic values and one of those is being accepting of everyone of every faith."

ST. JOE'S RANGERS

Scott Cramer, director of the men's residence and previously the director of both the men's and women's residences, said the opening of the new women's residence has shifted the dynamic of the college.

It has always had a strong men's community, with 63 young men, dubbed the St. Joe's Rangers.

The college only started renting space for a women's residence in the HUB Mall in 2006.

Both men and women's single-sex living environments have been a part of the mission of St. Joseph's College since its establishment in 1926, said Neal.

Past president Father Timothy Scott took the first steps toward realizing that mission of providing a residence for both men and women. The current president, Father Terence Kersch, had the vision and the fortitude to see it realized, said Neal.

The cost of the building contract was just under $35 million funded through a mortgage with ACFA (Alberta Capital Finance Authority).

ALL INCLUSIVE

Features of the fully-furnished residence include in-suite showers, double vanities, new appliances, wireless Internet throughout the building, a chapel on the first floor, and large window views of the whole campus and beyond.

Emily Dayboll, director of the women's residence, said security is a high priority, plus customer service for the residents.

The diverse community houses students from across Canada, the United States, Tanzania, Korea, China, Japan, Russia and England.

Programming is based on a wellness model which supports the development of the student as a whole, including mental, physical, spiritual and academic wellness, said Dayboll.

Efforts are being made to retain the sense of community experienced at the former women's residence.

These strategies focus on a high staff to student ratio - three resident life staff on each floor - a mentorship program that pairs older students with first year students, and a house committee to plan social engagement activities.

Antonio said it will take determination to maintain the tight-knit community of the old women's residence, but so far the staff is doing a good job.

"I've only been here a couple of days, but it's already really welcoming."