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Old is New, and Transformational: Swarthmore Opens Sharples Commons

The next chapter of Swarthmore’s history is unfolding in a familiar place.

Last week, the College unveiled Sharples Commons — an inviting and dynamic campus hub with an array of inclusive spaces for students, faculty, and staff.

The renovated space completes the larger Dining and Community Commons project and affirms the College’s commitment to community and well-being while promoting reflection, rejuvenation, and relationship-building.

“It’s a space for us all, where we can gather, rest, play, study, and connect,” says Rachel Head, associate dean of students and director of student engagement.

Sharples Commons is the new location of the Office of Student Engagement, and the space will soon feature the new Essie’s Corner dining facility. Among the key building features is a central student lounge filled with comfortable couches and natural light, offering a flexible space where students can relax, meet up with friends, or catch up on some studying. Sharples Commons also boasts a game alcove, piano lounge, and a variety of gathering spaces that can be reserved for large or small events.

The building is a boost for student activity groups, who will be given priority use of first-floor gathering spaces while having dedicated, secure storage space for supplies and materials.

Two open house events were held Thursday, Feb. 29, at which the College community enjoyed snacks, played video games, listened to music, watched movies, and forged new connections.

"It feels like a great place to decompress. I love it — it’s so cozy, warm, and inviting, " said Ava Golde '26 at the opening event. "I feel like it is a really good ‘anytime’ space."

"This beautiful new space is a testament to our commitment to educating the whole student," said Vice President for Student Affairs Stephanie Ives. "There are spaces to study, relax, play, socialize, and share a meal together. It really allows members of the community to engage with each other in ways that haven't existed on this campus in decades. It speaks to our vision of integrating well-being into all aspects of the student experience."

“It's been amazing to hear from so many of you about your memories of ‘old Sharples’ and to see you respond to the fresh and open layout of the space,” Anthony Coschignano, associate vice president for campus services wrote in a community message about the open house.

“While things look and feel a lot different, we've managed to retain that special 'Sharples Ski Lodge' feel.”

Following the open houses, the College introduced a new seating area in what had been the south dining room in Sharples — another quiet space in which to dine and gather.

In a message to the College community, Head expressed appreciation “to the many, many folks who dedicated thousands of hours and immeasurable vision for this project,” in particular Susan Smythe, senior project manager and ADA program coordinator, and Coschignano, who served as project lead and project manager of the Dining and Community Commons effort. 

“Their hard work and dedication to the student and community experience is felt throughout the space,” she added.

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