The Alumni Hall basement has undergone renovations to update the current student lounge. The student-led initiative was inspired by a lack of social gathering spaces on campus during the height of COVID-19 restrictions, said KC Onuoha ’23. Onuoha is a resident assistant and proposed this project to Residence Life last fall. The project focuses on uplifting students by giving them their own space.
“Why is it that people that live in the suites or other areas, they have access to their own common space, and they’re in the same area where they’re living?” Onuoha questioned. “Why can’t we just have fun in the same place that we live… why don’t we renovate the alumni basement, so we can use it as a space for more programming.”
Onuoha formed a renovation crew with Resident Assistants Kaitlyn Root ‘22 and Juana Lopez ‘22. Olivia Johannesburg ’22, a student volunteer, is also involved in the project. Their goal is to make Alumni a more comfortable space for students, Lopez said.
Alumni is a home to around 200 first years and sophomores on campus. During the implementation of COVID regulations on campus, students did not travel far from their residences to hang out in spaces like Dion, the College’s student center. Demara Mosher ‘23, describes the residence hall as an empty space before the renovations began.
“There’s this big old room. There’s like nothing in it,” she said.
The walls have been recently repainted by the student crew from yellow and purple to white and dark gray. With funding from Residence Life, Onuoha said they plan to bring in a foosball table, ping pong table, new pool equipment and furniture including bean bags.
The team aims to bring life and meaning to the renovations. “We’re also going to have a mural and it’s going to talk about personal development, and it’s going to be in the form of ‘I am’ statements. We’re going to have people paint their handprints on the walls, and put ‘I am beautiful,’ or whatever it is that resonates with them,” Onuoha said. She hopes this project will stand as a legacy for students all across campus to leave behind.
Jeff Vincent, director of residence life and community standards, said that the College administration expects to create “Murals on a Mission,” an UpLift event for future renovation efforts.
“It definitely fits into that model, because the Alumni basement will be a place where people can come together and also the wall is just like all about coming together as a community,” Vincent said.
“Murals on a Mission” is expected to focus on bringing the College community together and empowering the students that reside here.
“What does it mean to include diversity? What does it mean to include equity? And that’s really what it’s all about. It’s because we’re bringing in people, students from all different backgrounds on campus,” Onuoha said.
“Most of them, [the ideas] relate back to like the values of community or leadership or finding your own personal values and creating your own story, which is what we’re hoping to tie into the Uplift,” Root said. ”We want it to be a space that’s community oriented but also for people to be able to express their individuality.”
The process of the basement revamp has not gone unnoticed, but has been flying under the radar according to Alumni Resident Natasha Farrar ’24.
“I don’t know a whole lot about it… I’m kind of excited because all we had was like a pool table,” she said.
Abby Kittler 24’ is a two year resident of Alumni and expressed her excitement for the renovations. “I have lived in Alumni for almost two years and I have only hung out in the basement once. Other than that I only see it when I walk by to do my laundry each week. I’m excited to have another space to hang out in,“ she said in an email.
This project has been an ongoing process, as the suite residence halls have also received an increase in budget to renovate their lounges. For the Alumni team, this project is not about just upgrading the space.
Onuoha said it is about making Alumni a better place for their present and future residents to be proud of during their time at St. Michael’s College. The UpLift event is scheduled for Feb. 26.