Welcome to the neighborhood

Three men talking in Furman's Trone Student Center

Every neighborhood needs a great hangout. A place to eat, relax, catch up with friends, and meet new people. This fall, Furman’s neighborhood is getting its own gathering hole.

The Paddock, a new pub-style restaurant, is slated to open Sept. 9 in the Trone Student Center. The gastropub will serve a wide variety of bar favorites, including Philly cheesesteak, cheese fries and milkshakes.

Unsurprisingly, the venue already has eager customers.

“Having the pub on campus will be great,” said Abbey West ‘15 (Barrington, R.I.). “They’ll have TVs where we can watch sports. We haven’t had a great place to watch the Super Bowl, or NBA Finals. It’ll also be great to have sit-down type of restaurant right on campus.”

The new addition to Furman’s food scene is the school’s latest move to enhance its thriving campus community. Designed as residential campus when the university relocated in 1953 to its current location north of downtown Greenville, S.C., Furman’s housing and residence life requires students to live together in a single community. Naturally, this unique model has established a highly interactive environment where Furman’s undergraduates feel a sense of family.

Furman has 12 residence halls, ranging from four-person suites to traditional dormitories. Six of those residence halls are reserved exclusively for freshmen. For upperclassmen, North Village is the primary residence. Tucked in the far corner of campus between the practice fields and woods, the apartments give students a chance to be more autonomous, but still a part of the campus community. The school also offers a variety of academic learning communities, from foreign language houses to sustainable living homes.

The effect? A college campus that feels like a small town.

“I met the majority of my friends just doing everyday things,” said Kendall Driscoll ‘16 (Aiken, S.C.). “I would just bump into people while they were making something in the kitchen or when I was going to the laundry room. We’d start chatting.”

Still, Furman doesn’t leave such interactions to pure chance. That’s where the hall system comes in.

Each hall has a resident assistant (RA) and two first-year advisors (FRADs) who help new students navigate social and academic life, and act as mentors and friends to their residents. That might mean giving advice about classes or planning fun events.

“In the fall, the RA and FRADs organized trips to the Greenville Farmers Market on a few Saturday mornings,” said Bridget Lorenz ‘16 (Galloway, Ohio). “It was nice because all of the freshmen didn’t know each other yet, and when the hall staff helped organize outings, everyone felt included in the activity.”

The system works, too. Far from being a trying experience, living in the residence halls tends to be something Furman students treasure.

“The freshman hall has been one of my favorite experiences at Furman,” West said. “Living in such close proximity with so many of your friends is probably something you’ll never do again.”

Furman’s close-knit community is made up of more than students. It extends to the faculty and staff who interact with students on a daily basis. Those relationships grow both in and out of the classroom.

“Because it’s designed as a pedestrian campus, the interaction of faculty, staff and students becomes a natural process,” said Ron Thompson, director of Housing and Residence Life. “You’ll frequently see students speaking with staff throughout campus or talking with faculty members over lunch in the PalaDen.”

Eventually, many of those conversations will take place in Furman’s new restaurant, the Paddock. The new diner is part of a massive renovation project that has taken place at the Trone Student Center.

Among the additions are an expanded student organization commons, new administrative and student media suites, modern signage, and a new wing on the dining hall side that houses offices for Career Services, Undergraduate Research and Internships, Study Away and International Education, Student Life, and the Center for Vocational Reflection.

The highlight of the upstairs renovations is the front entrance, where students walk in to find a large “living room” and atrium, replete with video wall and fireplace.

The changes were made with Furman’s strong sense of community in mind. The outdoor spaces are designed as a place where students can get together to eat, study, and enjoy views by the lake. J.Scott Derrick, director of the Trone Student Center, envisions students taking their food out the boardwalk, roasting marshmallows and playing guitar around the fire pits, and enjoying smaller concerts and open mic nights.

“Students will have more space where they feel comfortable,” said Jessica Berkey, associate director for student activities. “Before, there weren’t many spaces they could hang out with friends or do whatever they want. We’ve already noticed an increase in traffic when the second floor renovations were finished.”

The result is a community where new students feel as comfortable talking to their neighbors as they do their professors. The experience is something that students value throughout their college careers.

“Living on campus for four years helps to build that community feeling,” West said. “It’s one of the reasons I decided to come to Furman and it’s made me love it for the past two years.”