In 1906, Alma Clark Glass made history as Western Washington University’s first-ever Black student. Now, more than a century later, her legacy lives on as the namesake of Western’s newest dormitory building, Alma Clark Glass Hall.
The hall opened its door to students in September of 2021. A floor community is reserved on the fourth floor for Black affinity housing, which Western’s website describes as a program that “explores and celebrates the diversity of Black and African American people and culture, with historical and contemporary context.”
The program was developed after students requested that the university designate more spaces for students of color, namely Black students. Students of color have historically faced unique challenges when navigating campus life at a predominantly white university. The Black affinity housing is an effort to provide these students with resources, understanding, safety, and a sense of belonging.
It’s important to note that the Black affinity program is about congregation, not segregation. Like many other campus affinity groups at Western, the program is meant to connect students with similar lived experiences. The hall also hosts events, programs, speakers, and discussions throughout the year.
Vicki Vanderwerf, Associate Director for Residence Life at Western, notes that not all Black students will want to live in the affinity housing; rather, her team’s goal is to create strong communities within Western’s residence halls. The option of affinity housing is just one way to accomplish this.
“What it’s really about is community building,” Vanderwerf says. “[Students] are looking for people who are navigating a similar experience, who are challenged by a similar experience, and for somebody else who just gets it.”
For more information on Glass Hall, as well as Western’s lineup of events for Black History Month, visit wwu.edu.