We dimmed the lights, sporadically placed flameless tea candles, unveiled the saccharine treats, and welcomed students as they filtered into Straus Library, the virtual campfire glowing on a large television in the background. On the evening of October 31st and our first fireside chat, we aimed to create a space that honored the holiday, was welcoming and intimate, and helped foster good conversation. And it seemed to work: we all engaged in conversation upon settling into our cozy seats. During a short lull in the dialogue, Jeanna Shaw ‘20 asked the OMCD team a seemingly simple, yet thought-provoking question: “What about this space reminds you of home?” My mind raced as I realized I hadn’t spoken in awhile, an experience I am sure many Milton students have had while sitting around the Harkness table. While I listened to the responses, I also examined the space—the high ceilings, an antique chandelier, the paintings of mysterious men, and dusty books lining the walls. I realized there is nothing about Straus that reminds me of my home, my public high school of 4,000 students, nor the quaint apartment I grew up in. The conversation continued, but I started to travel to Warren, Wigg, and the quad, examining the spaces as I fell deeper into reverie, another experience that may feel familiar to a student at the Harkness table. During this expedition, I realized that there is nothing about Milton Academy that reminds me of home—physically that is.
And so, I eventually snapped out of my mind meanderings, and, as you might have guessed, I never answered Jeanna’s question. However, I later realized that her usage of “space” was not limited to the physical space and that Straus, or any other space on campus, is not defined by the artifacts, black and white photographs on the walls, or the structure; the space is defined by the community who occupies it. Therefore, if I were to finally answer her question, I would say that the first fireside chat felt like home because it was full of people who were open, engaged, and willing to listen and share. Perhaps that is why one of the spaces I feel most at home is my English classroom, engaging with students and texts in a space defined by our words, ideas, collaboration, and community. And we all have these microcosms in which we feel the most comfortable; at a school as large and diverse as Milton, students and faculty/staff alike may find ourselves sticking to certain departments, athletics, clubs, or spaces. But, perhaps, if we reimagine our most comfortable spaces as figuratively boundless—classes as interdisciplinary, clubs as cross-cultural, and identities and discussions as intersectional—our spheres will extend into each other’s in meaningful ways.
And, that charge, is one of our main goals in The Office of Multiculturalism and Community Development—whether it is through facilitating discussion and workshops, inviting speakers, or even releasing an online newsletter—to help everyone in the community realize that their spaces, experiences, identities are an integral part of this larger community and others’ a part of theirs. We hope that this newsletter may help connect you to spaces and everything they hold.