Koka Hall has been given a new purpose, as well as a coat of paint. Koka Hall underwent a face-lift in the summer of 2013 and was transformed from nursing classrooms to a dorm that houses 37 students. There are 19 dorm rooms, including the RA rooms, as well as a laundry room, fully-equipped kitchen and large shared living space.
Koka is on the corner of University Avenue and McCabe Street and served as the nursing department’s home and classrooms from 1996 until March 2013, when the Arlene Gates Department of Nursing was moved into the new Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center.
The history of Koka Hall goes back further, though, to the mid ’90s when DWU embarked on an international cooperation with a Japanese school. According to Laurie Langland, DWU archivist, in 1980, DWU began working with CUPP International to find and establish a sister institution relationship with a Japanese school. The following year, 26 students and three teachers from Koka Women’s University spent a week of home stays under the sponsorship of DWU.
This relationship blossomed and in 1982 Koka Women’s Institute sent 26 high school students and three teachers to the DWU campus for three weeks of language study and family living in American homes. The first group of students and faculty traveled from South Dakota to Kyoto, Japan, in 1983. Before returning, DWU and Koka Women’s Institute entered into a formal agreement with a two-fold purpose: “To deepen and strengthen relationships between our schools and our countries” and “when possible, to conduct educational, cultural and faculty exchanges.” In the fall of 1995, it was announced that the Koka Women’s Institute had purchased the former Abbott House building.
Beginning with the fall 1996 semester, approximately 11 female students from Koka Women’s Institute were to spend about five months in Mitchell, living at the newly named Koka House. DWU was to have access to the north wing of the former Abbott House building. In 1996, the nursing department offices and upper level classroom were moved from Hughes Science Hall to what used to be the Abbott House.
The nursing department occupied the north portion of the building and the Koka students lived in the south portion of the building. The Koka exchange program dates through 2001 and after that, there is no record of when the exchange program officially ended, but that portion of the building was renovated into nursing lab and patient care/nursing skill practice rooms in 2005.