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Neihardt Raymond Hall

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Honors Program and its students are moving to a new home in the fall of 2019. After being housed in the Neihardt building for much of its existence, the Honors Program will transition to the Knoll residence hall — a bigger, newer facility.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Honors Program and its students are moving to a new home in the fall of 2019. 

After being housed in the Neihardt building for much of its existence, the Honors Program will transition to the Knoll residence hall — a bigger, newer facility.

"I live in a house that's (from) 1910," program director Patrice McMahon said. "I love old houses, but I'm very well aware that every time I get it fixed, it takes a lot of money and a lot of time."

Though not quite a 1910, Neihardt Hall is still pretty old. The main building was originally built in 1932, with the most recent additions coming in 1973, when it took the Neihardt name.

When McMahon stepped into the director role in May, she knew substantial renovations would need to be done to the building sometime in the future. But after the updates proved to be costly as well as hazardous with asbestos in the building, university officials made the decision to move the program.

The move not only provides a better facility, but offers more space for students. According to McMahon, about 800 of the program's approximately 2,000 members live on-campus. Neihardt, at most, can house just over 400, but currently only half of the building's residents are members of the Honors Program.

"Fewer Honors Program students in particular wanted to live in Neihardt," McMahon said. "It's very hard to have a cohort-based, robust community of high-ability scholars who don't want to live together."

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Greer Behnke, a freshman resident, highlighted the paradox of using Neihardt to house the honors students.

"It's the honors dorm, but it's also the yuckiest dorm," she said. "The rooms are smaller than any of the other dorm rooms. It's just tiny. Our sink lights, you can turn on and then have to wait a couple minutes for it to turn on."

According to McMahon, university officials had previously discussed the idea of building a brand-new, state-of-the-art building to house the program and students. But the project seems several years off, prompting her to advocate for the move.

"It's not a place where I can, with pride, on behalf of the University or honors students, invite members of the community," she said.

The move was planned and approved in a matter of weeks, which both surprised students and sparked a favorable reaction.

"We already have a tremendous response from current students who want to return to living on campus to live in Knoll," she said. "I don't know if they'll all follow through, but the initial interest in Knoll has been tremendous and that is not the case with Neihardt."

As of now, there are no announced plans to use the Neihardt building during the 2019-20 school year, but discussions are still ongoing.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or wstone@journalstar.com.

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Newsroom intern at the Journal Star.

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