January 30, 2024

Topping Ceremony

Colony Construction, the contractor for the Utica Campus residence hall, hosted a topping ceremony on Jan. 26.
BY: Cathy Hayden

Against a backdrop of heavy machinery, fencing and freshly moved dirt, the Utica Campus officially broke ground on a new coed residence hall behind the Cooper Fine Arts Building on May 3.

The new residence hall, expected to be complete in December 2024, will have 183 beds on three floors, a laundry room, kitchen on the first floor, study rooms, computer lab, a mini-mart plus an apartment for a residence hall director.

“We are investing in our future, we are investing in our community and we are investing in our students,” said Sherry Bellmon, Vice President of Instruction, Career & Technical Education. Her office has been on the Utica Campus, an HBCU (Historically Black College and University), since 2019.

Hinds is using $28 million in federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds made available during the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, the U.S. Department of Education allowed colleges to make requests for use of remaining HERF funds. The college submitted a request and received approval to use the funds for the residence hall construction.

Bellmon said when Dr. Stephen Vacik became president in July 2020 he asked her what her top priority was for the campus. “He asked me, ‘What can I do for you?’ I told him I wanted a new residence hall for our students,” she said.

Dr. Vacik said he knew such a project would take considerable funds. “I made a promise to get this done when I first came to Hinds, and today I have made good on that promise. I am very grateful that we were able to find the resources needed for this project,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

In the meantime, three existing residence halls on the opposite side of the campus are receiving much needed renovations including new HVAC and painting.

“This will be an exciting campus expansion,” said sophomore Lauren Gatlin. “I’m happy to see that we are moving forward and advancing resources on our campus. I hate I won’t be able to experience living in a new residence hall. This hall will be an essential tool for recruitment and increasing enrollment.”

Hinds recruiter and HBCU Liaison Donny Epting said the new building will be an asset to him as a recruiter.

“As an institution, it is our mission to provide students the best place possible to achieve their dreams. This new space will add to the many attributes that Hinds already maintains, which includes our costfriendly tuition, small class sizes and a variety of resources to help our students succeed,” he said.

Quoting Kevin Costner from the baseball movie “Field of Dreams,” he added: “Build it and they will come.”

Colony Construction, the contractor for the Utica Campus residence hall, hosted a topping ceremony on Jan. 26 to celebrate the progress of the construction. Colony Construction employees and Hinds officials were invited to sign the last beam before it was hoisted to the top.

The Hinds CC Utica Campus is currently constructing a new multi-million dollar residence hall that is set to open during the 2025 school year. This three-story addition will provide an additional 185 beds for the Utica Campus and an enhanced student experience. (See new residential hall preview below.)