The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


ODEI creates new student space

Student ideas and feedback wanted for new lounge area
Priscilla Jones
Inside the new ODEI lounge in Woodland Hall.

Chatham University’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI) and Office of Student Affairs are creating a new student space, informally dubbed the ODEI Lounge, in the rooms formerly occupied by Information Technology Services in Woodland Hall. The lounge will serve as an intersectional and inclusive space. 

Currently, the ODEI Lounge is in its early stages as the walls need to be repainted, carpet replaced and wires left over from ITS taken out. While there is no confirmed timeline, Coordinator of Student Engagement and Belonging Ali Hoefnagel hopes that the lounge will be ready by the end of the spring semester. 

“I think we have the potential here to create a really special kind of home and community space for marginalized students,” Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs Chris Purcell said. The space has four rooms and a small storage closet. While the plans are still being developed, the team has floated the idea of using the largest room as a lounge, the room behind it as a kitchen or kitchenette, and the room where ITS’ Helpdesk once was as a quiet study space. 

The room behind the former Helpdesk space may become an office as ODEI looks to hire an assistant dean of students for ODEI. Currently, Hoefnagel is the only ODEI employee. Dean Purcell said the University will begin the hiring process for the assistant dean of students soon. 

The project is being led by Dean Purcell and Hoefnagel, and both emphasized the importance of student input as they work with a budget of around $30,000 made up of donations to the University, including a donation from Dr. David Finegold, Chatham’s former president. 

Because of the budget, Hoefnagel said almost any suggestion is on the table. An open house event on Feb. 8 gave students the opportunity to walk around the newly-emptied rooms and write suggestions for what should be in the space. 

One of the suggestions that came up more than once was for the lounge to have a space for student artwork, or even a mural, something Hoefnagel wants to do alongside providing art supplies in the lounge. Many students also said they wanted the space to be a “home away from home,” according to Student Affairs Associate Priscilla Jones ‘24.

“They also really wanted a lot of neutral colors, warm colors. They were like, ‘No Chatham purple,’” Jones said.

The team plans to hold another open house event before the lounge is finalized. 

The open house featured photos of potential furniture. Hoefnagel plans to purchase the furniture from Tri-State Office Furniture, a company based in McKees Rocks that sells pre-owned, refurbished and new furniture. 

In particular, Hoefnagel has their eye on adaptable furniture, like large tables that can be broken into multiple smaller tables, to give students more control over the space. When Hoefnagel pitched buying from Tri-State Office Furniture, they discovered that Jones, an interior architecture major, was interning with the company. 

Alongside coordinating furnishing, Jones, the 2023-2024 executive president for the Black Student Union, is also responsible for getting students involved. The idea for the lounge sprouted in 2020 from a list of demands that BSU shared with the University. The demands raised concerns for the office space of then-assistant vice president of ODEI, which Dean Purcell said sparked conversations about ODEI spaces at Chatham. 

Hoefnagel said that it’s important that this project is “centering needs of students of color, queer students, students with disabilities, students that will be utilizing this space the most.” They hope to get dimmers for the lights and take steps to ensure the space is sensory-friendly for students. 

Jones has sent forms to the Latine Student Association and Asian Student Association to get insight on what each student organization would want from a space designed to accommodate the needs of students of color. Madison Stokes ‘26, Chatham Student Government’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, is also assisting with the lounge’s development. 

Jones stressed the importance of having a space for students of color to be together at a primarily white institution like Chatham. 

“I really just want people to be able to go in there and relax and exhale, and just, you know, be their true selves,” she said. 

If students have suggestions for the space, they can reach out to Hoefnagel or Jones via email at [email protected] and [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Abigail Hakas
Abigail Hakas, Opinion Editor
Abigail Hakas ’25 is a Communications major with a concentration in journalism and a minor in African American Studies. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Abigail transferred to Chatham from the Community College of Allegheny County after three years of study. Abigail’s focuses are opinion pieces and informative stories on issues relating to inequity and social justice. Outside of journalism, Abigail has a passion for wrestling, video games and animals. Abigail can be reached at Abigail[email protected].

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