The Heights: The Next Step in Campus Evolution

Photo: Mike Peters

The ribbon is cut for The Heights.

For students who unpacked their bags at The Heights this September, Montclair State’s newest residence facility is an exciting introduction to campus living. For those who understand the far-reaching impact of this state-of-the-art facility, it’s a crucial step in the University’s transformation.

“Because we now have adequate housing, we have been able to go out and recruit students from a broader geographic region,” says Karen L. Pennington, vice president for Student Development and Campus Life. “In the past, we couldn’t guarantee that a student coming from southern New Jersey—let alone another state—would have a bed. But now that we have available beds, we can bring in students from outside the local area.”

In addition, “The location of student activity on campus has changed,” Pennington explains. “We’ve shifted further to the north and west with the Village, Sinatra Hall, and now The Heights. So there is a different feel to the activity that comprises the student experience.”

Standing at the north end of the campus near the Student Recreation Center and CarParc Diem, The Heights is home to 1,978 students who occupy rooms in one of eight wings (see “What’s in a Name?” below) while enjoying the many amenities of a LEED-certified, “green” residence complex.

“It’s a unique opportunity for student living,” says Dominic Petruzzelli, executive director of Residential Education and Services. “With both singles and doubles, it can satisfy a student’s living needs with regards to room configuration. Together with all the new facilities and amenities, and with its proximity to the Student Recreation Center, The Heights provides students with the kind of housing experience they want.”

For sophomore transfer Aaron Weinberger, the new facilities were a key factor in his decision to attend Montclair State. “I got excited when I saw the single rooms and how close the dorm was to the new Rec Center. I could see myself living there,” Weinberger says.

The fully furnished rooms are wired for cable TV with 78 channels, and have individual heat and air conditioning controls. Wireless internet connectivity is available throughout the complex. Also making its debut at The Heights is Sam’s Place, a dining area that boasts five “restaurants” in one space and offers a variety of food choices—gourmet sandwiches, brick-oven pizza, fresh salads, contemporary diner fare, and even a Mongolian grill.

The greater number of residential students on campus creates a need for new programs, activities, and education for staff and students, and Petruzzelli says that Residential Education and Services is prepared for the task. The department has been reorganized and new positions have been added to account for the increased numbers.

Several campus departments were brought into the mix. “We’ve partnered with other campus areas to build a program that encompasses the entire community,” Petruzzelli explains. “We’ve added a component of student development and leadership for our Community Assistants and our students, and integrated many campus offices into the student programming experience.”

Changes in the facilities, programs, and activities all reflect the changing needs of students entering Montclair State today, who are very different from the students of 10 or 20 years ago.

“It’s the shift of generations,” explains Pennington. “Today’s student grew up with a lot more amenities—they had their own rooms, phones, computers, TVs, their own ‘everything.’ So the kind of facility where the TV is down the hall in a common room doesn’t work for them.”

Petruzzelli agrees, adding that students’ evolving expectations for their residential experience were the driving force behind many of the changes. “We developed our programming models knowing that the student demographics and needs have changed,” he says. “For the same reason, we have also changed how we market, advertise, and inform students through the social media: Facebook, Twitter, texting, and YouTube.”

More resident students, more students from outside the local area, new programs and activities, and a new building complex: it’s all part of the evolution of Montclair State. Weinberger sums it up: “It’s great to be here. The buzz on campus is exciting.”

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What’s in a Name?

The largest student residential development in the state, The Heights has two main complexes: John Victor Machuga Heights and Anthony M. Dinallo Heights, named in the memories of these individuals and in recognition of major gifts to the University. Each building has four residential halls named after New Jerseyans of note who have passed on.

Machuga Heights

Sam Mills Hall – for the alumnus and pro football great
Althea Gibson Hall – for the tennis pioneer and champion
William Gordon Hall – for the alumnus, physicist, and astronomer
Clara Barton Hall – for the founder of the American Red Cross

Dinallo Heights

John Basilone Hall – for the WWII hero
Albert Einstein Hall – for the scientist
Walt Whitman Hall – for the poet
Nellie Katherine Morrow Parker Hall – for the alumna, and first African American teacher in Bergen County, New Jersey