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Alma Clark Glass Hall focusing on community, accessibility, inclusivity

Suites, studios, kitchenettes, multipurpose rooms and more will be available at the new residence hall coming fall 2021

Construction workers working on the new Alma Clark Glass residence hall, where Highland Ridge residence hall used to be on Feb. 2, 2021.
Construction workers working on the new Alma Clark Glass residence hall, located where Highland Ridge residence hall used to be, Feb. 2, 2021. // Photo by Alison Ward

By Alison Ward

Alma Clark Glass Hall will be move-in ready in fall 2021, with a design focus on community, accessibility and inclusivity for all Western Washington University students. 

During summer 2021, current and eligible incoming Western students will have the option to select a room at Alma Clark Glass Hall for fall 2021. Rooms available will include full two-bedroom suites with one bathroom, semi-suite double rooms with their own bathroom facilities, singles, triples with their own bathroom facilities and studios with a kitchen and bathroom to appeal to all students.

The residence hall will have approximately 400 beds and will include laundry, storage, lounges and study areas, according to Western’s housing website.

“It will feature study lounges and community kitchens on almost every floor, allowing students to engage academically in collaborative spaces and socially through preparing meals and eating together,” said Paul Cocke, Western’s director of communications and marketing.

With community as a focus, the residence hall will include a multipurpose room that can be used for events, presentations, student-faculty collaboration and lectures. The main floor will function as a central hub for the Alma Clark Glass Hall residents.

Carla Yanni, a professor at Rutgers University and the second vice president of the Society of Architectural Historians, said much of what students learn is outside of class time, and forming life-long friendships takes place partly in residence halls. 

Former residence advisor and Western alumna Bethany Barbieri was able to see an early virtual video tour of the first floor of the hall, which showed study nooks and a market. 

“I am really happy to see these types of spaces added to the Ridgeway residence area,” Barbieri said. 

The virtual video tour of Alma Clark Glass Hall is available for public viewing, along with live construction footage.

After viewing the video, first-year student Brody Hunt said the building’s size and the sky bridge impressed him the most.

In addition to the design features, Alma Clark Glass Hall will include four significant improvements to make the Ridgeway community accessible for students with disabilities for the first time. 

Cocke noted the building would include single rooms, elevators, a sidewalk from the college hall to create a new accessible pedestrian pathway to The Ridge and more wheelchair-accessible rooms close to Red Square, the Viking Union, academic buildings and the library.

It is essential for architects and colleges to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act

“Students with disabilities should be able to easily enter and exit a building, enjoy its landscape and communal spaces and participate in the life of the residence hall like anyone else,” Yanni said.

Along with community and accessibility, inclusivity was at the forefront of the design plan.

On Dec. 11, 2020, the Western board of trustees unanimously approved the new residence hall’s name. Cocke said Alma Clark Glass, for whom the new building is named, was the first Black student to attend Western in 1906.

In her honor, Alma Clark Glass Hall will provide Black Affinity Housing. According to the Western housing website, the affinity-based housing is designed to assist members of the Black-identified community in supporting each other while adding psychological comfort and safety for those who choose to live in those spaces.

“A reflection and meditation room, which includes a footwash area prioritized for Muslim-identities, provides space for quiet moments,” Cocke said.

Barbieri said that from what she has heard, the residence hall sounds like a wonderful place to live. However, she said she hopes the new residence hall will not charge more because it could result in class problems — with lower-income students forced to live in less desirable housing.

“Official decisions on housing rates will be finalized in spring 2021,” Cocke said. “However, before then, we confer with student leadership in housing and Associated Students about overall housing system priorities, debt obligation and new programs we might be looking to bring forth.”

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