With Monmouth College school year set to begin, rebranded 'Highlander Hub' space will serve students
Monmouth, Ill. (08/02/2022) — A project that started with Monmouth College's chaplain office prior to the pandemic is now in the capable hands of the school's Stockdale Fellows leadership program.
Located on the lower level of the Stockdale Center - the College's student center - the rebranded "Highlander Hub" will provide Monmouth students experiencing food insecurity with non-perishable food items, as well as hygiene products. It will also double as a "careers closet," providing clothing that can be checked out to students for such occasions as job interviews, Greek life functions or awards ceremonies.
Grace Simpson, a senior from Metamora, Illinois, has taken on a leadership role with Highlander Hub, partially through her new leadership position with the Stockdale Fellows program, which is overseen by the College's Wackerle Center for Career, Leadership and Fellowships.
"We want to provide students with the tools they need to create healthy meals in a dorm setting," said Simpson of the main idea behind Highlander Hub. "And the clothing we have is all washed, ironed and ready for them to wear off the hanger. It will be checked out to students, likely for a week at a time."
'Many hands make light work'
Monmouth has approximately 15 Stockdale Fellows per class. That means the Highlander Hub will continue to grow well after Simpson graduates, according to Wackerle Center director Marnie Steach Dugan '95.
"We hope to be able to come at this from the angle of 'many hands make light work,'" she said. "The hope is that the Stockdale Fellows will be able to do this as one of their primary projects."
The Highlander Hub's official hours are yet to be finalized, but Simpson said the space would be open for several hours each day. Stockdale Fellows will staff the space for some of the time.
Assisting Simpson with organizational duties for Highlander Hub and helping to stock the space has been Elizabeth Smith, a 2019 Monmouth graduate who is interning this summer in the Dean of Student Life's office.
Looking ahead, Smith predicted the "careers closet" would be expanded to include winter wear, as Monmouth's decline into colder temperatures is often sudden, catching many students by surprise. A drive for such items as coats, hats, scarves, gloves and boots will likely be held at some point during the fall semester.
Halted by the pandemic
After a request from Monmouth's student affairs office, the chaplain's office created a space to serve students who experience food insecurity, especially during College breaks and between semesters. It was originally located in the Weeks House on the southeast corner of campus. A few months later, though, the pandemic hit, and Monmouth's students learned remotely or in a hybrid setting for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year. During the past academic year, the College's Interfraternity Council took on the project.
Simpson and Smith are excited about the increase in scale for the new space, as well as its Stockdale Center location, which previously housed the commuter lounge. That lounge will now be located in the Center for Science and Business.
When former associate chaplain Jessica Hawkinson got the food pantry idea off the ground four years ago, she said she had learned more about the issue "through the Association of Campus and University Food Banks. ... There are universities and colleges, including some in the area, who are trying to meet food security needs in a variety of ways. But it differs from campus to campus."
Hawkinson gazed accurately into the future when she said the hours for the space and its oversight could change in the months ahead. She was also spot-on when she said why such a service was of extra interest to Monmouth College, specifically.
"Monmouth has an interdisciplinary focus on global food security in an academic affairs context," she said, referring to an initiative open to students in all majors that was launched in 2013.
An environmental studies and sustainability major, Simpson is part of the initiative, as she's minoring in global food security.
To help raise awareness for the new space, and also in keeping with campus-wide sustainability efforts, students will be given reusable bags with the Highlander Hub logo during orientation. The intent is for them to use those bags when picking up food items.
"From the time they set foot on campus, they'll know that this is a good resource for them," said Dugan.
Although the Stockdale Fellows will run the Hub's operations, other campus organizations are welcome to be involved. Dugan said that includes the College's Art Alliance, which will spruce up the space through its artistic talents. A faculty-staff food drive is also in the planning stages to help stock the shelves.