The carpet is stainless. The furniture, brand new.
The appliances, top-of-the-line. The bathrooms, humongous.
This is a residence hall?
Welcome to the undergraduate residential center on the Clairmont
Campus. After more than two years of new construction and nearly
$70 million in new facilities, the Clairmont Campus has made a smashing
debut during the 2002–03 academic year.
Home to 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students, a handful of
staff members and a growing number of faculty, the Clairmont Campus
has become—and by all accounts should remain—the address
of choice for many in the Emory community.
“Before I moved here, I thought it might be too good to be
true,” said Natasha D’Souza, a senior political science
major from Bergenfield, N.J. D’Souza previously lived in Alabama
Hall and the Woodruff Residential Center before moving to the Tower
Apartments on the Clairmont Campus her junior year, then to the
new undergraduate residential center last fall. “But this
is the nicest place I am ever going to live.”
That may be a bit of hyperbole, but Clairmont certainly is the crown
jewel of University Housing. Each apartment in the undergraduate
center houses four students, each of whom has an individual phone
line. The apartments are connected by a kitchen (with all the appliance
amenities), living space and bookended by two full bathrooms. Graduate
apartments come in one-, two- and three-bedroom varieties, giving
graduate students with spouses and/or children needed flexibility.
It’s the best of both worlds, D’Souza said. There is
privacy in that she has her own room and can close the door when
she wants, plus there is the communal area where everyone is free
to come and go as they please.
And there’s the benefit of a perfect view from her window
of Clairmont’s newest gathering spot: the Student Activity
and Academic Center (SAAC). “Sometimes I feel like I’m
at a resort or an upscale country club,” D’Souza said.
“It doesn’t always feel like a college campus.”
Perhaps the only knock on the new Grille Works, located in the newly
opened SAAC, is that it doesn’t accept debit or credit cards—only
cash or EmoryCards.
The food is outstanding and reasonably priced. The bacon cheeseburger,
probably the unhealthiest thing on the grille’s menu (on any
menu probably) is tasty and not too greasy.
The healthier fare is top of the line, as well, at least according
to Frank Gaertner, SAAC director (turkey and red pepper sandwich)
and Lisa DeMik, assistant director of residence life for Clairmont
Campus (salmon spicy roll sushi).
“This has been my favorite place to work,” said DeMik,
who came to Emory in 1999 and has served as south and east area
director on the main campus for University Housing prior to moving
to Clairmont. DeMik is one of six staff members who live on campus.
While her apartment in the tower is being renovated over the summer,
she will be living in the graduate residential center.
“It’s been challenging, but in a very good way,”
said Gaertner, who has worked in Residence Life and University Conferences
since coming to Emory 10 years ago. With his move to the SAAC, Gaertner
broke new professional ground. “I didn’t have any experience
in facilities when I got here, but it’s been a lot of fun.
The students have been great.”
The SAAC literally overflows with facilities. Inside are the Grille
Works, a gymnasium large enough for two simultaneous full-court
basketball games, a workout area, full locker facilities (the full-use
lockers are cherry wood), a mail room and a variety of classrooms
and seminar rooms
Several spaces are set aside for socializing and studying. Some
areas have tables and sofas as cushy as any in the Miller-Ward Alumni
House, and ringing the gym are several circular tables, perfect
for schoolwork or people-watching on the court. It’s common
for students to hop on the C Shuttle from the main campus and come
to the SAAC to study or hang out.
Nowhere on the Clairmont Campus is country club appearance more
visible than from the SAAC’s back porch. Even the splinterless
patio furniture screams plush.
“This is my favorite place to sit,” Gaertner said, looking
out over the wide expanse of the SAAC’s exterior facilities.
In the distance is the pristine graduate residential center, and
in front of that are the SAAC’s swimming pools, seven tennis
courts, outdoor basketball and volleyball courts and athletic field.
On a good day, it is impossible to get a seat by the Olympic-size
All students, no matter where they live, can use the SAAC’s
facilities free of charge. Faculty and staff must pay a yearly fee.
Gaertner and his staff didn’t move into the SAAC until Feb.
7 (two weeks before it opened), which led to a lot of 12-hour days
and some even longer. For instance, last week was the first time
since she moved to the SAAC that assistant director Mary Romestant
worked a five-day week. Even now SAAC staff are discovering how
versatile their new home is.
One of the classrooms is slated to become a computer room once the
hardware arrives. The gym can be converted into a banquet hall in
just minutes, or to a movie theater with a flick of a switch to
release the large screen on the far wall.
Building a community at Clairmont hasn’t always been a smooth
road. Since hallways are exterior, there is no incentive for residents
to open their doors like in other residence halls. With few natural
elements bringing people together, that has the led the housing
staff to be creative.
“We’ve had a high learning curve,” DeMik said.
“Some of the things that work on the main campus don’t
work here. This is a different population that is looking for different
For example, as social activities go, movie nights in hall common
areas often are good draws on the main campus, attracting as many
as 20 students at a time. At Clairmont, they have been much less
Instead, programming with international students in mind (a great
deal live at Clairmont) or mixers for graduate students has been
much more successful. “Graduate students enjoy interacting
with people outside their programs,” DeMik said.
A kid’s club for the children of graduate students, English
as a second language classes and nights out to Braves games for
residents have been popular activities.
Residential faculty have done their part to assimilate into the
community as well: University Secretary Gary Hauk has hosted programs
on Emory’s history; Lisa Carlson, adjunct associate professor
in Department of Behavioral Science and Health Education in the
Rollins School of Public Health, has sponsored speakers from the
CDC as well as Rollins. Each residential faculty member in fact
has taken part in a variety of programming.
One of the biggest successes in bringing together people on campus
at Clairmont has been guest speakers. Guests from India, Germany,
Morocco and several other countries have visited with students.
DeMik said that instead of posting flyers, residents are personally
invited to events, and attendance is high—sometimes drawing
as many as 50 people.
The campus is still a work in progress. Construction work, while
much of it is finished, is still going on around the tower. And
new amenities pop up seemingly every day—a new recycle bin
in the SAAC here, a swipe-card machine outside graduate housing
Concrete is pretty ubiquitous, from the massive Clairmont Campus
Parking Deck (affectionately nicknamed the “Garage Mahal”)
to the exterior corridors of the residential centers (which make
them feel like a motel off the perimeter), and the beige-ness of
the main buildings can be overwhelming.
But the campus also is quite beautiful. Green spaces and trees and
brick sidewalks abound, and since automobile traffic is limited
to the campus perimeter, walking is by far the preferred mode of
The Clairmont Campus is a lot more than an apartment complex/playground
for its residents and other members of the Emory community. Its
64 acres also include the Clifton School, which provides child care
for members of the Emory community; the Hope Lodge for cancer patients
and their families; the Mason Guest House for organ transplant recipients
and their families; and the Autism Research Center, which is the
state’s most comprehensive provider of services for children
and adults with autism.
“The vast majority of residents are very happy,” DeMik
said. “The undergraduates adore it here. A community is coming