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Creating space in our public place

September 22, 2023

Alex Spear
CAPTURING THE QUAD: Students participate in a multitude of activities on the Quad to take advantage of the lovely end of summer weather.

Nothing captures the essence of Bowdoin like a warm sunny day on the Quad. Students lounge on beach blankets shielding their screens from the sun as they attempt to get a reading done. Hammocks and slacklines anchored between two trees create mini coves in an open expanse of grass. Passersby engage in  quick conversations with friends they have not gotten the chance to catch up with.

With earlier sunsets and cooler weather approaching, the time students have to utilize the Quad is dwindling. But through outdoor activities like yoga, chess or occasional frisbee, the Quad is a central space for community organizing early in the semester.

Assistant Director of Student Wellness Programs and Coordinator of Wellness Outreach Kate Nicholson hosts weekly yoga classes on the Quad, particularly in the first few weeks of the semester before the weather prevents students from getting outside more regularly.

“We just know that the indoor months are very long at Bowdoin, and in your student-ship, you spend a lot of time indoors, whether it’s being bogged down with your coursework and not feeling like you can afford to step away … or it’s just the weather that feels extra challenging,” Nicholson said. “So I’m a big fan of seizing the windows and opportunities when we know that we have them.”

Nicholson also acknowledged that the Quad gathers first-year students who are eager to participate in pop-up events as they situate themselves on campus and find opportunities for wellness that match their interests and lifestyles.

“There’s like this sort of buzzing curiosity of all the things, and when it’s a very beautiful day, we bring a simple invitation to that central place on campus, especially for first-year students,” Nicholson said.

Another frequenter of the quad, Chaos Theory Frisbee, holds its first week of practices on the Quad every year to recruit new members and invite first-year students to get involved in a low-stakes and casual environment.

“I think the hope is that people will see us playing frisbee, see that we’re having a lot of fun and want to join the team,” captain of Chaos Theory Frisbee Astrid Braun ’24 said.

Chess Club Leader Sandro Orjuela ’24 emphasized how clubs and student groups can utilize the Quad to create community and spontaneous engagement in public spaces.

“It’s just really nice to be outside, especially on a nice day. We usually play on the museum steps or the wall in front of the museum. It attracts people who are walking by and adds to the good vibes,” Orjuela said.

In addition to wellness and extracurricular activities, faculty also utilize the Quad for class discussions and outdoor learning. Professor of Art James Mullen took his landscape painting class outside to the Quad on Wednesday afternoon to teach his students about capturing the essence of a site in quick studies.

Nicholson emphasized that, while the Quad is quintessential to Bowdoin, it also holds significance to Brunswick residents and serves as a community space for more than just students.

“As a member of the community, I really love the felt sense of the bigger, broader community that arrives on our quad,” Nicholson said. “It’s not pure Bowdoin, as in just students, staff, faculty, but it’s also folks walking their dogs, and it’s people with their kids on their bikes zooming down the pathways—recklessly but adorably… Remembering that we are always nested inside a bigger broader rich community here is so important to our collective well-being. And the quad is one of those public spaces where you can really see it and feel it and know that you’re a part of it.


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