The Honors Center
Most workplaces have a communal lounge of sorts for its employees. These areas provide a place for the workers to relax, socialize, and catch up on their work loads. The Honors Center, located in College Hall on Western Washington University Campus in Bellingham, Washington, provides a nearly identical experience.
The Honors Center is a large room dedicated to aiding students who are enrolled in the Honors Program in whatever way would be appropriate. It is rather similar to the Common rooms found in Harry Potter; it is a place for like-minded students to gather and socialize with a peer group of similar ambitions and perspectives.
When crossing the threshold of the Honors Center, one must walk past a long, brown table that is usually adorned in tea bags, packets of apple cider and cocoa, Styrofoam cups, red stirring straws, and — to bring the assortment together — an electric water kettle. The “tea table” as it shall henceforth be known, is a wonderful source of both caffeinated and hot beverages. As my friend, Elizabeth, says “It’s where I go to get my hot chocolate. I’m surprised the Honors Program hasn’t bothered to charge me considering how much I take.” In other words, the lounge is a fantastic place to retreat to when one is craving a warm drink.
Past the tea table, separated from the rest of the room by columns and bookcases, is a designated walking area. This makeshift hallway divides the room into the sitting and homework areas on the left and the bathrooms and professors’ offices on the right.
The sitting area comes complete with two comfy red sofas with matching chairs, a coffee table upon which normally rests an in-progress puzzle, two side tables upon which lamps and candles have been placed upon, and a microwave on top of a miniature refrigerator. This cozy, little corner provides a warm, welcoming atmosphere to the Honors Center, similar to how a living room, or parlor would in a house. Of course, if you are anything like my friend, Jordan, you will end up treating the area more like a bedroom than a living room. “It’s really kind of pathetic how often I’ll fall asleep on the couches in there. But it’s just so quiet and cozy in there! How am I supposed to resist?” I believe her description of the area as “quiet and cozy” perfectly describes the room.
Beyond the cluster of couches, there is a long table set up for studying purposes which is adjacent to a multitude of computers. Next to the window, which brings in natural light for the center — a trait that gives the whole room a more light-hearted feel — one can find a desktop computer sitting upon a desk. Next to that, there is a printer which is free to use for the Honors Students, something that, in an interview with my friend Scott, has been labeled as “the BEST perk of being in the Honors Program!” Following the printer, one can find another desk complete with desktop computer. Beyond that, there is a whole cluster of desktops placed upon three long tables all pressed together to form one unit. And, finally, tucked into the corner is a bookcase rich with reading material which, in my opinion, increases the aura of academia in the room.
On the other side of the hallway, one can find the cluster of professors’ offices, or cubicles. There are, also, the bathrooms marked as “lavatories.” That label would, undoubtedly, be considered pompous — or confusing if you’re like my friend, Astrid “I thought it said ‘laundry’” Watkins — if it were found anywhere else on campus, but it appears natural in a place meant for academically ambitious young adults.
Though attempting to display culture with its interest in the fine arts, some might say that the Honors Program went a bit overboard in decorating its center. Large prints of famous paintings such as The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai and whiteboards commonly decked out in inspiring quotes from Aristophanes or Sappho such as “May I write words more naked than flesh, stronger than bone, more resilient than sinew, sensitive than nerve,” can be found. These quotes and paintings could potentially give off a snob-like impression. I, however, enjoy the art and quotes; I believe they embody much of what is taught in the Honors classes and therefore find them to be extremely appropriate.
As one enters the room, they will not, of course, merely focus on the layout of the furniture and wall décor. Upon further examination of the room before their eyes, they will usually notice their college student peers hunched over a book, computer, or laptop. Of course, occasionally, there will be the outliers who have come to the center simply to relax. These lucky beings tend to either sit on the couches and put together puzzles, browse their Facebook Newsfeeds on their phones, or simply chat with one another. In this way, the center can act as both a social place and a studious place.
This separation of social versus studious is, in my opinion, the most prominent strength the center has to offer. Whomever designed the furniture layout of the room was clearly an extremely wise person. By putting the comfortable furniture all together in one corner, chatty students are inclined to all flock to said corner, and, therefore stay far enough away from any students attempting to complete homework.
Though it is, certainly, the main point of the center to have a space for all likeminded students whether they happen to be engaging in conversation or studying, the size and structure certainly has its fair share of strengths and weaknesses.
A major strength, in my opinion, of this setup is that the place designated for talking is far enough from the area designated for studying that neither group feels like they are interrupting the other; The separation of the couches from the studying area allows for students to feel perfectly at ease in whichever element they find themselves drawn to. The students who are working are far enough away from the students conversing so they are not bothered by the chatter, and, likewise, the students doing the chattering do not have to worry about bothering anyone who is finishing their work which I believe to be a major strength the center provides.
A weakness of this setup, however, is that, occasionally, the room can be difficult to maneuver. Though, fairly spacious, the room caters to every student in the Honors Program, meaning it is perfectly possible for over one hundred people to show up at the same time. This can make things cramped when multiple people want to print out their assignments, make themselves tea, or simply relax on the couch. Thankfully, though, it is very rare for over ten students to frequent the center at one time and is usually close to empty if entered at strategic points of the day, for example, during afternoon classes or mealtimes.
In conclusion, the Honors Center is a fantastic place for students involved in the Honors Program at Western Washington University. Like a break-room one would find in a modern office, students can enjoy the luxuries of a room that does not focus on a specific idea (work/class). Whether a student wants to study with friends or in solitary, enjoy a nice cuppa, or simply kill time by working on a one thousand piece jigsaw puzzle, that student can do so in this delightful center. If you ever get the chance to enjoy its quaint charm, I highly suggest you take advantage of that opportunity.
Dreyer, Sarah A., and Elizabeth A. Yarbrough. Personal interview. 21 Jan. 2016.
Kubichek, Jordan K. Personal interview. 21 Feb. 2016.
Watkins, Astrid K. Personal interview. 21 Jan. 2016.
Gershon, Scott M. Personal interview. 21 Jan. 2016.
“A Quote by Sappho.” Goodreads. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter. London: Bloomsbury Children’s, 2001. Print.