FAQ

Vision

What is the vision for this project?
What will make people stop and mingle in the renovated Blanchard Community Center?
What will draw faculty and staff to the Blanchard Community Center?
What is the vision for the Unity Center? How will organizations use it?

Size, scope, and sustainability

Will this building be sufficient for future generations of MHC students, faculty, and staff?
What is the seating capacity in the new dining center?
Why is the addition of the dining center only one story? Were two stories for a smaller footprint considered?
How will this new building integrate with the rest of campus?
How will this new building improve sustainability efforts on campus?

Engagement

How was the community a part of the design process?
What have you heard from alumnae about these changes?

Cost and Savings

How much will the project cost and how will it be paid for?
Why does one dining location cost less than several dining halls?

Residence Hall Dining Areas

Will all of the residence hall dining areas be closed?
How will the residence hall dining spaces be used once the new facility opens? Will students be consulted on any of the plans?
What will happen to staff and student jobs in the residence hall dining areas?

Dietary Needs

Will students still be able to eat full meals instead of just going to get something quick like a pizza?
How will the new dining plans account for specific dietary needs?

What Will Happen To…

… Mount Holyoke’s dining traditions?
… M&Cs?
… Gracious Dinners?
… the Campus Store?
… student mailboxes?

Vision

What is the vision for this project?

Blanchard Campus Center already is at the physical center of campus and thus is a natural place for students to come together for meals and activities. This project will allow students, faculty, staff, and alumnae to more readily make connections with one another through community conversations, civic engagement, events and shared meals.

The plan combines the intimacy of the Mount Holyoke experience with conveniences and amenities that will serve the needs of today’s students and of students for generations to come. The goal is to build community with spaces that enhance residential, social, and dining life while also responding to the needs of students, faculty, and staff.

Family-friendly spaces will allow community members to bring their children and other family members to campus, as well. In the evening, this space will continue to be the main hub of activity. Beyond a new pub and spaces for student organizations to meet, the Great Room will feature expanded programming including dance parties, movies, performances, and other spontaneous activities. (top)

What will make people stop and mingle in the renovated Blanchard Community Center?

Beyond comfortable seating areas and lots of ongoing activities, a digital signage system will advertise what’s happening throughout the building complex.

The Blanchard Community Center will offer a place to sit, eat, drink, and mingle that is separate from the main dining center. A pub and coffeehouse will draw visitors to Blanchard, as will grab-and-go dining options including food and beverages.

Another big draw to the Blanchard Community Center is the ability for students to meet with  student affairs staff for information and resources—in one spot, and at a destination that they will visit daily. Currently, students have to stop by  offices across campus for advising and to address their concerns. (top)

What will draw faculty and staff to the Blanchard Community Center?

The Blanchard Community Center will give faculty and staff more options to meet with students in casual settings such as over lunch or coffee. Faculty and staff will be able to bring their families for meals too. There will also be formal and informal spaces for meetings and catered events. Members will be able to program dining spaces with events such as faculty lunch talks, forums, and department gatherings. (top)

What is the vision for the Unity Center? How will organizations use it?

The Unity Center will add a new space for mid- to large-size groups to have cultural discussions and events, some of which are now happening in less accessible spaces. The assistant dean of students, who oversees cultural houses and works with a range of students on cultural programming, will relocate to the Student Services Center in the Community Center. Students planning identity-group events and programs will start here, where they will meet with their advisors and be encouraged to use the Center’s Unity Space and other large meeting spaces.  (top)

Size, scope, and sustainability

Will this building be sufficient for future generations of MHC students, faculty, and staff?

Our design firm specializes in college and university design and we've worked closely with them to create a facility that will be flexible over many years. The Blanchard Community Center project offers the flexibility, spaces, access, and vision to sustain Mount Holyoke’s vibrant community now and over the long term. This is an exciting opportunity to create a hub for dining and student life services, to boost visibility for student organizations, and to establish spaces that inspire cultural and civic engagement.  (top)

What is the seating capacity in the new dining center?

After thoughtful analysis, we have found that 1,000 seats is the right number for the dining addition. For comparison, the existing Blanchard Café has just 175 seats. We considered everything from class schedules and enrollments to the current number of students that dine during the lunch-time rush and the growth in non-student diners. Note that there will also be additional seating in the renovated Blanchard Community Center near the Grab-and-Go.  (top)

Why is the addition of the dining center only one story? Were two stories for a smaller footprint considered?

There were many factors that led us to design a one-story dining building rather than a multi-level building. These include:

  • Accessibility: One of the key goals of centralized dining is to give all community members equal access to various food choices. Having dining all on one level is the best way to meet this goal as it does not require those with a range of mobility needs or dietary restrictions to maneuver multi-levels.
  • Service: Dining service is also best done on one level. Studies show that if you have a two-level dining facility, food needs to be provided on both levels to draw people up and keep the second level from being underutilized. This would require adding food preparation areas and dish rooms on two levels.
  • Building complexity: A two-story building needs infrastructure that a one-story building does not, such as  stairs, elevators, and other mechanical elements.  (top)

How will this new building integrate with the rest of campus?

The Blanchard Campus Center addition will be designed to blend with the historic campus and to maintain the look, feel, and charm of the the existing building. The transition between older and new parts of the building also will be seamless so that visitors will feel as though they are entering a historic space.

A longer-term goal in the Facilities Master Plan is to reduce the footprint of the campus and return other areas to green space.  (top)

How will this new building improve sustainability efforts on campus?

By converting from six dining halls to one, we will reduce our carbon footprint significantly. First and foremost, with dining all in one place, our needs for equipment and supplies will be streamlined. This will result in fewer truck deliveries around campus and a reduction in food waste.

The project will also be designed and constructed to LEED Silver equivalent standards, meaning it will be resource efficient and cost effective. Key sustainability features of the project include:

  • a solar thermal system to reduce the amount of natural gas needed to heat the building’s hot water
  • an efficient heating and air conditioning system and controls
  • ENERGY STAR certified appliances
  • LED lighting with daylight controls
  • water-saving plumbing fixtures
  • a dehydrator unit to convert compostable food waste into a fertilizer-like material
  • a rain garden to reduce stormwater runoff.

(top)

Engagement

How was the community a part of the design process?

The Community Center with Dining committee included students, faculty, staff, and alumnae representatives who worked for more than two years on the study. The committee has also met with student groups with interests in accessibility, improving dining, improving technology in Blanchard, and environmental concerns.

Faculty were engaged with the project through presentations at faculty meetings. The architectural firm, Bergmeyer Associates, Inc., led open forums on campus for staff, students, and faculty. Displays have been set up in Blanchard with information about the proposed Community Center.

Open forums for alumnae were held in cities across the United States and in London as well as  a webcast in October 2015.  (top)

What have you heard from alumnae about these changes?

Over the past two years, we have reached out to alumnae and received both positive and negative feedback. There is no question that alumnae hold their memories of residence hall dining areas very dear. In most cases, once they understand the need to design a financially sustainable campus for the students who are here today and will attend tomorrow, they are more supportive. We will continue this outreach throughout the project.  (top)

Cost and Savings

How much will the project cost and how will it be paid for?

The budget for the Community Center project is $50 million and will be funded by a mix of gifts and loans. This budget has been established with adequate contingencies for unexpected issues, so we expect not to exceed it. Due to a restructuring of the College’s debt portfolio, the College can absorb any new debt for this project without negatively impacting the operating budget.  (top)

Why does one dining location cost less than several dining halls?

Over the years, the five residence hall dining areas that are still in operation have aged with very little investment. It is time now either to invest in all those dining areas or to invest in one. Investing in one makes the most sense because of the College’s current finances and the program improvements we will be able to offer to students. In addition, there will be operational savings from consolidating to one location and reducing the amount of equipment running on campus. We will be able to improve food choices, hours, and service to students while reducing the overall budget.  (top)

Residence Hall Dining Areas

Will all of the residence hall dining areas be closed?

Yes.  (top)

How will the residence hall dining spaces be used once the new facility opens? Will students be consulted on any of the plans?

Community will continue to thrive in residence halls. Our goal is to transform the residential dining halls into spaces that support living-learning communities , suite-style residences, more singles, and gathering spaces for wellness, socializing, and small-group cooking.

A study is underway to explore options and we look forward to receiving student ideas and recommendations. We are also looking at ways to integrate programming with M&Cs to enhance community building in residence halls.  (top)

What will happen to staff and student jobs in the residence hall dining areas?

With the closing of the residence hall dining areas, we do expect a small reduction in employment. As the Community Center is not slated to open until 2018, there is a long lead time to plan for the transition. Due to relatively high turnover in dining services, we can plan for these reductions over time and do not expect a significant impact at the time when we transition to the new facility.

With regards to student jobs, Mount Holyoke spends over $2 million per year on student employment. The move to a new dining facility will have a very small impact on that number.  (top)

Dietary Needs

Will students still be able to eat full meals instead of just going to get something quick like a pizza?

Yes. We have designed the building to encourage diners to sit and eat a full meal rather than grabbing something. Each of the nine stations will offer a prepared option—and an opportunity to have something prepared for you. Busy students will find both healthy meals and healthy options later in the evenings.  (top)

How will the new dining plans account for specific dietary needs?

The new facility will have the resources to address—in a single facility—dietary restrictions and preferences such as halal, kosher, gluten-free, and vegan.  (top)

What Will Happen To…

…Mount Holyoke’s dining traditions? 

One of our key goals is to design a community center where all students will feel comfortable entering, maneuvering, and dining. Our student body is made up of about 2,200 individuals: introverts, extroverts, mobility needs, sensitive to noise, those with dietary restrictions, those in a hurry, those with time to sit and relax, and everything in between. The design of the building takes into account these various needs and has features to accommodate them—and to make everyone feel welcome.

As we have worked on the design of the Community Center, we have looked to the positives of our current dining structure in order to improve and inform the project. The new dining hall is divided into five separate and distinct dining rooms in addition to open seating. Each of these rooms will have its own character and features, just as our current dining halls do. For example, the tranquility dining room will have a smaller, quieter environment. By designing a variety of spaces, students will be able to come together in smaller groups within the larger facility to eat, mingle, and enjoy programming.  (top)

… M&Cs?

Rest assured: M&Cs are here to stay. They will take place in the residence halls on weeknights. On Sunday evenings, community M&Cs will be held in Blanchard. This was first introduced two years ago and has been successful in bringing students together who may not otherwise have reasons to interact.  (top)

… Gracious Dinners?

The new facility will make events such as Gracious Dinners much easier to offer and attend. And with this central location, now they will be available to the entire student body.  (top)

… the Campus Store?

It may relocate to the Village Commons. Details are still being worked out.  (top)

… student mailboxes?

Student mailboxes will move to the central services building.  (top)