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  • Jonathan Stokes

UMSL Orientation: Clark Hall

By: Jonathan Stokes


The North Campus is an iconic area that most students recognize, even if they’re not taking in-person classes. For Tritons commuting to class, the Quad on North Campus is a historic and sacred space for experiences unique to UMSL. One of those experiences is hearing, seeing or having a full-on old western-style standoff with a noisy goose who is determined to let all nearby humans know a new sheriff is in town. Most of these experiences end with the goose backing down and retreating to its observation deck, the roof of Clark Hall.


Photo by Jonathan Stokes


Built in 1968, and the second UMSL building erected (after Benton Hall), Clark Hall has spent the last 56 years as the official headquarters for local geese training for their uprising. It also happens to house the anthropology, sociology, and language departments.


Photo by UMSL Institutional Repository Library


With its beige-on-beige aesthetic, Clark Hall is a run-of-the-mill college building. Each of the many classrooms has desks of varying comfort levels holding students trying their best to speak a new language. Despite the dull appearance and unpredictable temperature controls, Clark Hall’s charm comes from the student body and instructors.  


A language class is a wonderful place to bond with classmates. There’s a special bond formed when students taking Spanish classes consistently refer to their dad (papá) as “potato” (papa). Lucky for them, language tutoring is available and free of charge.  


The artwork in the hallways of the building does a major lift for the visual appeal of the building. The large windows bring in natural light that works in tandem with the various prints on the walls for subtle yet stunning art experiences while traveling up and down the staircases. The view of the Quad through said windows also livens up the campus experience while in the beige box, though currently that view is obstructed by never-ending construction.  


Photo by Jonathan Stokes


The fifth floor of Clark Hall houses the department offices and currently looks like a storage unit with furniture and giveaways lining the hallways. Office supplies fill boxes as faculty begin their moving process out of their longtime office spaces.  The vacating is because Phase 2 of Transform UMSL includes the complete removal of Clark Hall. As mentioned in the Campus Master Plan, Clark Hall has below-average building conditions and its demolition will allow for a bigger Quad area and cut maintenance costs.    


The fourth and third floors certainly help to make the case for the Transform UMSL concept. While some effort has been put into the student experience, these floors mostly consist of standard classrooms. The third floor has a study room and a vending lounge, both of which are reminiscent of hospital waiting rooms. However, for students in need of a sensory break and a snack, these rooms come in handy. The study lounge also has a couple of computers available for anyone to use. 


While most of the building leaves much to be desired, the second and first floors hold treasures that UMSL students must know about.


















Photos by Jonathan Stokes


The bottom level of the building has a nice auditorium and just down the hall is an interfaith meditation and prayer room. Open Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. and on Fridays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., the room offers students privacy and quiet to meet all holistic needs. The space is equipped with seating, prayer rugs and is adaptable for multiple styles of prayer.  


Just above the prayer room, tucked away at the end of the bland second-floor hallway, a floor-to-ceiling mural demands the attention of every person who walks by. The mural, titled Overlapping Identity” is bold and bright with vibrant colors illustrating the experience of a specific student community that is often unrecognized. Mike Wattle, a veteran and alumni, painted the mural to illustrate the conflicting identities of veteran and student. 


Photo by Jonathan Stokes


The title of veteran signifies the completion of an experience, while students are typically at the very beginning of their next life journey. Carrying both identities can feel complicated and isolating.  


Wattle stated in an interview with STLPR in 2016, “Military service members, active and veteran, often feel they do not always fit into the surroundings. They might as well just be wearing their uniform for the rest of their lives.” 


Hence the depiction of students outside of the Millennium Center while wearing their uniforms. 


To help ease the multiple hurdles for students with a connection to the military, UMSL opened the Veteran’s Center in 2012. Today, the center is still going strong with a tight-knit community of passionate faculty and student staff members ready to assist Tritons as they work toward their next steps in life.


As described by Martina Meng, the manager of the Veteran’s Center, “What we really are is the start to an answer.” 


With a team including nine student workers, the Veteran’s Center at UMSL supports a wide range of needs for military-connected students. For students needing help with admissions, academics, networking or the ever-important GI Bill advising and certification, Room 211 in Clark Hall is the place to go.  


Beyond connecting students with resources and helping with paperwork, the Veteran’s Center offers a comfortable space to help Tritons build community. The space is a beautifully designed and cozy room with snacks, coffee and video games. The student organization, Triton Vets, hosts events in the lounge and updates about upcoming events are available on TritonConnect.  

 

While the space is intended primarily for military-connected students, all students are welcome to make the Veteran’s Center their third place

 

As the campus prepares to say goodbye to Clark Hall, it’s impossible to dismiss the importance and historical significance of the building in UMSL’s history. Important rooms, meaningful departments and a significant amount of goose droppings will be removed from this sacred space that has been a part of UMSL’s landscape since the earliest years of the school’s existence. While bittersweet, future Tritons will have a brand new on-campus experience and hopefully, the geese will come to terms with there now being room in this town for everyone.  



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