Park Region Hall

Park Region HallThe construction of Park Region Hall in the mid-1950s as a women’s dormitory was part of Concordia’s response to increasing post-WWII student enrollment as well as the availability of government loans.  From 1951 to 1955 the college’s enrollment increased by fifty-two percent, with 1354 students registered for the 1955-56 academic year.  In addition to providing a new housing option for students, Park Region Hall experimented with a new form of residence governance that was eventually adopted across campus.  In the twenty-first century the dormitory remains a place to test new ideas.  During the 2016-2017 academic year Park Region was the first Concordia dormitory to offer a sexuality- and gender-inclusive floor.  

A new dormitory was built in 1956 to house 228 Concordia women.  The new residence was dedicated Park Region Hall, after Park Region Luther College in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, which was absorbed by Concordia in 1917.   Featuring all the amenities available in the 1950s, Park Region offered a sundeck above the Main Lounge and private lounge for the residents on the third floor. The basement of the dormitory included a recreation room with a snack bar available to the whole campus. [1]

According to scholar Sharon Bohn Gmelch, in the 1960s many dorms had policies that included curfews, guest sign-­ins, “houseparents,” and a standing ban on male visitors to women’s dorms, practices that Concordia shared.  Park Region Hall was the first residence hall at Concordia to stray from the “houseparent” scheme and introduce a new model of supervision.  A 1956 article in the Fargo Forum described Park Region’s new system as follows: “a new experiment in dormitory supervision is in effect with the girls relying upon their own officers and counselors. There is no resident head or housemother. The girls are supervised by six upper class students who are each in charge of a corridor [known in 2016 as a Resident Assistant].” In charge of the six resident assistants was a head counselor elected by students living in Park Region (known in 2016 as a Director’s Assistant). The article continued, “The girls will strive doubly hard this year to make their system of government shine as brightly upon campus as does their newly completed residence.” [2] The women of Park Region did indeed allow this new system to shine bright. Today, all residence halls on Concordia’s campus operate on this model.

The dormitory experienced a change in 1980 when the lower level snack bar/club room became the Martin Luther King Intercultural Center.  This change occurred after a college minority student house was razed but the need for a location for minority student activities remained.  According to then Vice President of Student Affairs Walter McDuffy, the center “was established so that minority students could have a place to gather and socialize; a place where they could create their own kind of culture.” [3]

While Park Region was initially an attractive housing option for students, the construction of Livedalen, Hoyum, Erickson, and Hallet Halls in the 1960s pushed the dormitory to the bottom of the preferred list of residences for students.  Its smaller rooms, ageing facilities, and somewhat inconvenient location were among students’ grievances.  In 1995 a $3.3 million plan to remodel Park Region Hall was approved.  According to the Jim Meier, associate dean of students and director of residence life, the college planned to “gut the interior of the building and start over.” [4] 

The remodel brought a fifty percent increase in square footage of living space per room. Park Region’s new dorm rooms then had the same amount of square footage as those in Fjelstad Hall, the neighboring women’s dorm, which was 216 square feet: much bigger than the other dorm rooms on campus. Also, due to the higher quality of air, Park Region became the ideal dorm for those suffering with allergies.  The basement floor used to have just a laundry room and a study area, but was eventually equipped with an exercise room, a computer lab, and a conference room. In 2016 the remodelled dorm remained the only one with air conditioning.  The remodel required some other housing changes on campus.  Since half of Park Region would be uninhabitable during the remodeling process, the college opened to students an 18-plex apartment building, now called the Boe-Olson apartments, to recover the lost living space.  Another female unit was also added to Brown Hall, changing the ratio to five women’s and two men’s units, as it remains in 2016. [5]

Over a half-century after its construction, Park Region Hall continues to be a dormitory whose residents are willing to innovate. Concordia’s first sexuality- and gender-inclusive floor opened in Park Region in the fall of 2016, with the second floor open to all students who did not identify on the gender spectrum, were transitioning, LGBT+ students, and those who wished to explore their gender and sexuality in a safe and welcoming environment. Students could apply to live on this floor through a secure, online application.  Similar gender and sexuality inclusive housing options were available at other private liberal arts schools in Minnesota, including, but not limited to, Augsburg, Macalester, and Carleton Colleges. [6]   

Authors: Carissa Nygard & Layne Cole

[1] Carroll Engelhardt, On Firm Foundation Grounded (Moorhead, MN: Concordia College, 1991), 224; "Open House Today in New College Dormitory," Fargo Forum, Oct. 14, 1956, B­3. The snack bar has since been converted to the King Intercultural Center, a conversational, tea-time space available by reservation to groups on campus.
Sharon Bohn Gmelch, Gender on Campus: Issues for College Women (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1998), 185; "Open House Today in New College Dormitory," Fargo Forum, Oct. 14, 1956, B­3.
[3] “Intercultural house razed; center moved to Park Region,” Concordian, Sept. 26, 1980, 7; Nate Jackson, “Intercultural Center not exclusively for minority students,” Concordian, February 4, 1983.
[4] “Concordia College Buildings,” Park Region, Building Files Collection, Concordia College Archives; Heather Hauschild, “And the last became first,” Concordian, Nov. 17, 1995, 4.
[5] Hauschild, “And the last,” 4; Nicole Aksamit, “Something old, something new,” Fargo Forum, Aug. 17, 1997, Park Region Hall, Building File Collection, Concordia College Archives.
[6] Alyssa Armstrong, “Park region to House College’s First Sexuality and Gender Inclusive Floor,” Concordian, Jan. 28, 2016, 1, 8; “Colleges and Universities that Provide Gender-Inclusive Housing,”, accessed Jun. 20, 2016,