Equipped with wireless Internet, air conditioning, a game room and a kitchen for student use, the updated Couzens Residence Hall is far from the building it was when it originally opened in 1925.

Faculty, staff and alumni joined University President Mary Sue Coleman yesterday at a dedication ceremony for the renovated hall, which is home to about 525 students. Couzens reopened at the beginning of the semester after undergoing a massive interior renovation. The $49 million reconstruction, which is part of a larger University undertaking to improve residence halls, required Couzens to close during the 2010-2011 school year.

Coleman said she is happy with the outcome of the building, especially its aesthetics.

“It is better than I ever thought it would be,” Coleman said in an interview after the event. “The creativity that’s gone into repositioning the spaces and making everything just absolutely gorgeous … I mean, I couldn’t have even imagined it (turning out) this good, so I’m thrilled.”

In addition to the amenities like wireless Internet and controllable air-conditioning in individual rooms, Couzens also now has a number of tools for group study, music practice rooms and new audio and video equipment available for students. The building is also home to the Residence Hall Association’s offices and Couzens Active Minority Ethnic Organization multicultural lounge.

During the past few years, the University’s Residential Life Initiatives has undertaken a number of projects to improve residence halls. One of the initiatives includes the North Quad Residential and Academic Complex that opened last fall and cost about $175 million to build. Stockwell and Mosher-Jordan residence hall were also renovated in recent years at a cost of $39.6 million and $44.1 million, respectively. Additionally, renovations are underway at Alice Lloyd Residence Hall, and East Quad Residence Hall will be revamped next school year.

Coleman talked about how each residence hall has its own character and praised the renovations for retaining “the best tradition of Michigan.” She added that the older University buildings are well constructed, but they need to be renovated to meet students’ changing needs.

“They needed updating, they needed to be modernized, they needed the latest in technology because (that’s) the way our students learn today,” Coleman said. “And so it’s a thrill for us to keep the infrastructure, keep the beautiful parts of the building and yet make them as modern as any new building could be.”

Engineering senior Ricqel Smith lived in Couzens before the renovations and now serves as a peer academic success specialist in the building. Smith said she was shocked and impressed by the new facility.

“It definitely was mind blowing …” Smith said. “Looking from the outside, it doesn’t look like they changed anything, but when you walk in it’s just like this modernized, wonderful building.”

Smith added that she has already noticed students taking advantage of the building’s amenities.

“Before, you fought over one study lounge, and now there’s just so many options to choose from,” she said.

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