A community of scholars
Dayona Nett has lived at Douthart Scholarship Hall for the past four years. A senior from Kingman, Kan., she serves as treasurer of the hall, cooks lunch once a week for her fellow residents (she calls them some of the “coolest women” she’s ever met) and leads the scholarship hall community as president of the All-Scholarship Hall Council.
“There are a lot of great benefits to living in the scholarship hall community,” she says. “It’s a really great location, and it’s a very close-knit community. After a month of moving to a scholarship hall, you probably know people in every single hall.”
An unusual arrangement
KU’s “schol halls” provide cooperative housing in small groups. About 50 students live in each hall, all located directly east of the main campus. Students govern themselves, overseeing the rules and ways of life in the halls as proctors and food board managers. Each has a president, treasurer and other officers. Graduate students studying student affairs or higher education serve as scholarship hall directors.
“When people tell me stories of life in the scholarship halls,” said Diana Robertson, director of student housing, “a lot has to do with cooking and the interdependency on each other.”
Nearly every aspect of schol hall life revolves around interdependency — residents take turns cooking three meals a day, clean the hall, and organize social and community service events. Each meal is a sit-down affair with all housemates who can make it. Since many students have hectic schedules, the kitchens are open to residents 24 hours a day.
In return, their cost of living is lower than if they lived in a residence hall — they save up to $1,600 per year. Because of the halls’ popularity, residents must meet some scholarly requirements. Prospective residents must write two essays. Residents read the essays, and incoming residents are placed in halls based on their preferences and assigned scores of their essays. To stay on, residents must pass at least 28 credit hours in the fall and spring semesters and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA (residents average a 3.3 GPA).
A memorable experience
“Scholarship hall students develop a deep and lifelong affection for the university,” Margaret Battenfeld Hashinger, who funded Battenfeld Hall, said in 1974. It’s still true. Schol hall residents join a genuine community, and it can be life-changing.
“For me, the scholarship halls are more than just a place to live — they are a family tradition,” said Stephen “Sai” Folmsbee, the first president of Krehbiel Hall.
The experience has led to growth of the scholarship hall community — several of the newer halls were funded by alumni of older scholarship halls who wanted to contribute to the community that had made their time at KU so exceptional.
KU’s first Iranian student, K.K. Amini, lived in Battenfeld Hall in the mid-1940s and met his wife, Margaret, when she wrote a story about him for The University Daily Kansan. Years later, the couple funded K.K. Amini Scholarship Hall. “All I can say is, this is my American dream,” K.K. said at the dedication of the hall. The couple also funded Margaret Amini Hall, an architectural twin of the first.
Annette and Roger Rieger, alumni of Douthart and Battenfeld, funded Rieger Hall in memory of Roger’s late brother Dennis. And when Karl Krehbiel funded Krehbiel Hall in honor of his parents, he explained, “I had a great experience living in Stephenson Scholarship Hall when I was a student.”
The nearly 600 residents of the schol halls hear about the halls’ history every year. They honor their halls’ namesakes in various ways. The women of Douthart Hall call themselves “Douthartians,” and residents of Stephenson Hall, named for Lyle Stephenson, call themselves “Lylemen.” Battenfeld Hall residents award scholarships each year to residents who display notable leadership or contribute in outstanding ways to the hall.
When Elizabeth Watkins funded the first scholarship hall, she wasn’t entirely sure of the idea. The experiment has turned out well, and continues with good result. “The scholarship halls are one of KU’s greatest gems,” Robertson said. “Some schools may have only one, and here it’s a whole community that is very rich in tradition.”