Reporting by Dana Richie and Neil Mehta
Photography by Dana Richie
Web design and layout by Lizzy Zhang, Jed Fox and Neil Mehta
Most students say they’re happy. But what’s helping students feel this way?
A poll conducted last month by The Herald and the Brown Opinion Project found that the vast majority of students say they are happy. One-quarter said they were “very happy,” while 56% indicated that they are “somewhat happy.” Under 10% of students said they were very or somewhat unhappy.
The Herald set out to document what’s driving students’ happiness — starting with their happy places. Below are seven different locations that inspire happiness for students.
Arushi Parekh ’24 described the first time she visited the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender as “a little bit of a treasure hunt.”
After climbing up the stairs to the center’s second floor, she found a “little tucked-away hidden room” filled with feminist literature and cozy seating. Now, it’s one of Parekh’s go-to study spots.
“It’s a really quiet place,” she said. “You can take a step away from campus.”
The Sarah Doyle Center — located on the outskirts of campus at 26 Benevolent St. across from the Keeney Quadrangle — has served the Brown community since 1974, according to its website.
Spurred by a proposal by the Working Group on the Status of Women — a coalition of administrators, faculty, students and employees — the University opened the SDC with the mission of providing a space so “women of all ages could come together to discuss women’s issues,” according to Encyclopedia Brunoniana.
The SDC now holds meetings for student organizations and events centered around women’s issues, including film screenings and guest speakers. It also boasts a vast collection of feminist literature available to the University community.
Parekh said that she appreciates the center’s work and presence on campus.
Though she sometimes makes her way to the center with friends, Parekh said that there is a unique comfort being at the SDC alone. This is especially true for rainy days on College Hill, when she just wants “a place that no one really knows about (so) it's not overly crowded,” she said.
It “just feels very serene,” she said.
When Sam Lynch ’23 is not working in his room, he likes to visit the Fleet Library at the Rhode Island School of Design.
“It’s right near Kennedy Plaza,” Lynch said. “So you can jump on the bus that comes right outside the tunnel on Thayer Street.
It’s probably a 10-minute bus ride.”
“You can use your Brown ID to get there and they have really good food,” he added.
Founded in 1878, the Fleet Library is “one of the oldest independent art college libraries in the country,” according to its website. In 2006, the library moved to its current location on the first and second floors of RISD’s building at 15 Westminster St., an 11-floor dormitory that sits along the Providence River.
Fleet, which Lynch described as “big and quiet” with “beautiful murals,” boasts over 155,000 volumes and 320 print periodical subscriptions focused on architecture, art and design.
Lynch finds particular comfort in a set of stairs on the first floor of the library lined with multicolored pillows, a regular study spot for both Brown and RISD students. The stairs lead to a “secluded area up top” of Fleet that has a view of buildings across Providence, he said.
“It’s a nice place to get off campus and also be in the city a bit,” Lynch said.
Calvin Kirk ’25 often finds his way to Prospect Terrace when he wants a moment to himself.
“I go on a walk, and oftentimes that walk will lead to Prospect Terrace because it's a nice place to sit,” he said. Especially “if you don't go at sunset, then usually it's not very crowded.”
“It’s this really beautiful place,” said Jesse Hogan ’24, who first visited the park in his first year to watch a sunset while it was “freezing cold” outside.
Situated on a lot at 60 Congdon St., Prospect Terrace was one of the first public parks in the city. Providence residents have been taking in the panoramic views from the terrace since the park first opened in 1869. In 1939, a granite monument to Roger Williams, which includes a 15-foot statue, was completed in the space.
Today, students, tourists and locals alike gather in the park — having picnics, playing with their dogs or simply sitting on benches and taking in the view.
Kirk also tends to frequent the park with friends and enjoys watching the scenic sunset views with them.
“If you go and eat dinner there at sunset time, you get a very pretty view of downtown and the State House,” Kirk said. “One time me and my friends did a little cheese board picnic at sunset up there, and it was very cute and memorable.”
For Hogan, Prospect Terrace is a scene of comfort — “a little place to just relax or do my work in peace.”
Nadeen Kablawi ’23 enjoyed sitting at the tables outside of Blue State Coffee on sunny days — that is, before the coffee shop chain closed its final location on Thayer Street Nov. 17. The storefront is located near multiple popular buildings on the north side of campus, including Andrews and the Nelson Fitness Center.
Kablawi likes “the busyness and the hustle and bustle of campus” that she could observe from outside the cafe.
“I feel like that’s such a good place to work while getting sunshine and seeing people that I know coming from the Nelson or Andrews,” Kablawi said.
Students expressed disappointment and concern in response to the cafe’s announced closure, The Herald previously reported.
Until the cafe closed last week, Kablawi often visited the store “three or four times a week,” she said. Though her friends do not like sitting outside “because the sun is harsh,” Kablawi said she enjoys sitting at the tables by herself.
Reflecting on the store’s closure, Kablawi said she is “really sad to see (the store) go and think the store’s closure will leave a hole in the Brown community,” she wrote in an email to The Herald.
“Without Blue State, Thayer lacks a homey, familiar, comfortable cafe that actually serves good coffee,” she wrote. “I bought a few bags of coffee beans from Blue State on Thursday so hopefully I can make it last a little longer.”
The basement of the Engineering Research Center is nearly empty on weekends. For Maddie Simon ’24, that makes it an ideal spot to study and spend time.
“It’s normally quiet and there’s not a lot of people around, which is nice,” Simon said.
Simon first visited the site as a sophomore. Nowadays, “I probably spend most of my time there,” she said.
Simon likes to sit in the classrooms and student laboratories scattered in the ERC’s basement. The spot is easy to access — the basement is located down a flight of stairs immediately ahead of the building’s front entrance.
Opened in 2017, the Engineering Research Center extends Barus and Holley, the seven-story building between Brook and Hope streets that houses the physics and engineering departments. Among the center’s features are a nanotechnology classroom, a bio cleanroom and the Hazeltine Commons, which includes a cafe frequented by University students.
The building was supported financially by the BrownTogether Campaign, which has raised over $3 billion for University investments and campus development. The ERC routinely hosts science fairs, club events and conferences.
As a biomedical engineering student, Simon said she appreciates the opportunity afforded to her by the ERC, specifically its basement, to interact with her peers. “There’s also a lot of other engineering students who hang out down there,” she said. “Everyone helps each other.”
With its bright yellow walls, the sixth floor of the Sciences Library is one of the best places for Claire Kim ’24 to study on campus.
The SciLi, located on Thayer Street, stands 14 stories tall. Ever since it opened in 1971, its distinctive concrete build has made it a campus landmark.
The sixth floor currently houses the Center for Language Studies, which facilitates language learning and intercultural connections for undergraduates, graduate students and faculty, according to its website.
Kim found the sixth floor for the first time this semester, and said that she has been hooked ever since. The floor allows her “some privacy,” especially compared to the library’s basement and mezzanine levels, which Kim said many of her friends prefer for studying.
She tends to study at the large white tables found at the entrance of the floor, which are flanked by large windows. Occasionally, Kim said she can be found taking a quick two-minute nap on the floor.
But Kim doesn’t just appreciate the floor for its studious environment. She particularly also enjoys floor six’s view of the sunset — the west-facing windows in the SciLi flood the room with sunlight.
“There’s a giant window in the front because the SciLi overlooks the city,” Kim said. “Even the sixth floor has a nice view of the sunset.”
To Kim, the sixth floor has a special type of warmth. “The sunset adds to that impact,” she said.
For Leanna Kish ’25, the best spot on campus is her own room. Kish decorated her single-occupancy room in Olney House on Wriston Quadrangle “exactly how I want it,” she said. The room is adorned with an abundance of string lights, which illuminate her red, gray and black decorations.
Wriston, constructed in the early 1950s, hosts both traditional dorms and Greek Life housing. Before its construction, “51 buildings, including houses, shops and the Thayer Street School were razed from the site of the quadrangle,” according to the Wriston Quad’s Encyclopedia Brunoniana entry.
Kish’s dorm is named after Richard Olney, class of 1856 and a former federal attorney general and secretary of state. Olney was praised by the Boston Transcript in 1897 as a lawyer who gained his reputation “due to his intellectual strength and sturdy purpose,” according to his Encyclopedia Brunoniana entry.
Today, Kish lives in her Olney single with her two dogs, Louis and Tinky. “I just hang out there all the time with my dogs,” she said. “That’s how I spend my weekends. … I’m not big on going out.”
Kish’s room, which also has a small television, is “my favorite place to be,” she said.