Space to simply be: Student haunts and hideaways are central to campus experience

by | May 11, 2015

As useful as a map can be, getting to know a place like UMSL requires exploring it in person. So does discovering a favorite spot.
Student haunts 1

A cluster of underclassmen has laid unofficial claim to a busy spot in the Millennium Student Center, where they typically gather between classes. Pictured (clockwise from left) are Chris Young, Sage Hayes, Brian Kay, Robert Mertens, Alek Breitweiser, Rachel Milliot, Marcus Leach and Omar Shabazz. (Photos by August Jennewein)

As useful as a map can be, getting to know a place like the University of Missouri–St. Louis requires exploring it in person. So does discovering a favorite spot – to study, eat or just unwind.

That’s how UMSL students locate that perfect table at a busy campus crossroads or little-known nook with remarkably comfortable chairs.

Student haunts 2

UMSL students Ashley Westbrook (at left) and Leigh Jacobson spread out lunch and study materials in the Provincial House kitchen.

Those spaces are typically not classrooms, but they’re a vital part of the UMSL experience. For nursing student Leigh Jacobson, one of those is the Provincial House kitchen, where she has access to a microwave and large table.

“All of these amenities are available in Seton Hall, but the atmosphere there is different,” Jacobson says. “It’s kind of a social lounge area, and I’m a person who needs as little distraction as possible.”

Though she describes herself as “a little secretive” about her favorite study spots, Jacobson is quick to offer an informal tour of the Seton and Provincial facilities on South Campus.

“Provincial House was at one time a convent,” she says. “Its architecture and layout is something I really enjoy. The hardwood floors provide for a cozy environment and a sweet smell that reminds me of grade school.”

Student haunts 3

Jennifer Stephan, a junior nursing student, makes the most of a piano in Seton Hall.

For some of Jacobson’s nursing classmates, the brightly colored lounge near their academic home in Seton Hall makes the most sense.

“We started hanging out here in between classes because of our short breaks,” says junior Jennifer Stephan. “We have classes from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Monday in the same classroom.”

Upon special request, Stephan steps over to the nearby piano. She gives an impromptu performance of “Let It Be” before returning to the long table populated with applauding peers, including Amy Dinh, a fellow junior nursing student.

“I usually hang around in the Seton lobby during breaks between classes, to meet for group projects or to study and work on assignments,” Dinh says. “The ambience is nice, and I enjoy being able to relax in an area where peers of the same major also like to relax.”

Students can become a little territorial about their haunts. It’s hard not to, says David Cross, a sophomore mechanical engineering major.

Student haunts 4

A kitchen in Oak Hall brings on-campus students (from left) Melissa Roth, Carly Vogel and Joseph Hendricks together for a meal.

He’s part of a swarm of underclassmen frequently gathered at a particular table in the Millennium Student Center. Once in a while, another member of the UMSL community arrives earlier than they do, unwittingly claiming “their” spot.

“When that happens, we have to go to the backup spot” – one floor up, on the third floor of the busy MSC, Cross explains. But there’s something special about that place at the intersection of foot traffic between the bridge and the escalator.

“I enjoy this spot because I get to see everything in the MSC and find new friends,” says freshman computer science major Jacob Artis, seated next to Cross. “We’re always expanding – we’re a friendly group.”

Student haunts 6

Dylan Sullivan points to the chalkboard while studying with accounting classmates Mikia Austin and Marco Yau in a hallway hideaway in the J. C. Penney Building/Conference Center.

Artis met one of the people around the table in sixth grade – his good friend Marcus Leach, who is also now a freshman. Their after-class meetups have been crucial to staying connected at UMSL.

“What I enjoy the most about us getting together is that we are all different and come from different backgrounds,” Leach says. “Even though we are all different, we all fit together really well. We can talk about anything. We can vent, cry, whatever, and it’s really comforting to have a solid group of friends that can be trusted to support each other.”

Some students look for a spot in the middle of everything, but others seek to be off the beaten path. That’s what sold Dylan Sullivan and two of his accounting classmates on a hallway hideaway in the J.C. Penney Building/Conference Center.

“We stumbled upon it while going to the Online Testing Center to take a test and thought that it would make a great area to study – it had a blackboard we could write on, was quiet, and, most importantly, it had comfortable chairs,” Sullivan says. “It also allows us to project our voice when studying.”

Student haunts 7

Melanie Fagerlin challenges a friend to a round of pool in Oak Hall.

Along with Mikia Austin and Marco Yau, the sophomore typically heads there the night before a big exam.

“We want to create a happy atmosphere instead of stressing out over the fact that we have an exam the next day,” Sullivan says. “I think it actually helps me learn and retain information better because it is easier to recall information when I am in a good mood rather than a bad one.”

For others still, selecting a spot is about something as mundane – and delicious – as a hearty lunch.

“I brought a fairly big lunch today,” says commuter and Pierre Laclede Honors College student Ashley Westbrook, before taking another bite of salad, “and I knew that the [honors college] kitchen would be the best place to lay out my spread.”

This story originally appeared in the spring 2015 issue of UMSL Magazine.

Haunts - Fireside Lounge

Senior psychology major Erica Van Cleave puts her feet up while watching Netflix in the Fireside Lounge in the Millennium Student Center.

 

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Evie Hemphill

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