The name Shepard House may be unfamiliar to many students, but the building at the corner of Mill and Winter Street, right across from Lee and York, will once again be residential housing for the upcoming 2024-25 academic year. This shift reflects a growing need for student housing as enrollment numbers increase. Various groups currently using the building, such as Bearcat Chat and the Triathlon team, will be displaced due to an increase in need for student housing.
Shepard House, which was built in 1967 for the Alpha Phi sorority, recently operated as student housing until being turned into an office space in 2021. After a brief stint serving the Claremont School of Theology, Shepard House became home to the Triathlon team and Bearcat Chat, the latter of which serves as a call center on campus that reaches out to parents, alumni and parents of alumni in order to ask for monetary gifts to the university. The shift back to housing is primarily due to “having a larger number of students on campus and having a two year live on campus requirement. We just want to house as many students who would like to live with us on campus,” said Heather Kropf, director of residential life and student conduct.
In terms of the groups currently using the space, Lizzie Waldorf (‘25), a student manager at Bearcat Chat, explained that the call center “began working in Shepherd House the fall of 2021. Yet during the initial quarantine period of the COVID-19 pandemic, people [who worked for Bearcat Chat] were calling independently from their own dorms. Then, prior to that, we were located in a small room in the Smullin basements.” Waldorf explained that as Bearcat Chat has expanded, there has been a need for office spaces like Shepard House, as it offers separate rooms for student workers to conduct calls.
Waldorf added, “At most, we have 12 people on calls at the same time. It would be incredibly difficult to do our jobs in a space that didn’t cater to the needs of Bearcat Chat.” They also attributed the organization’s continued improvement post-pandemic largely to the facilities and community the group has established within Shepard House. They said, “I think it's no secret that Bearcat Chat has been the most successful it's been in a very long time.”
As of now, Bearcat Chat doesn’t know where they will be relocating. Waldorf explained that the group is trying their best to advocate for conditions that accommodate the needs of a call center and is searching for the benefits that Shepard House has provided them with for the past few years. They explained, “The conditions for where we are [currently] calling are really concrete. Not only for keeping employees, but also for keeping happiness.”
Waldorf also shared concerns about the conditions of Shepard House, and whether or not it would be suitable enough for residential housing within the next coming year without extreme renovations. “Shepard House is simply an office building. All of the doors have a little window on them, so when it has to be converted, they either have to get new doors or just paint over them.” Waldorf went on to explain that “there [have]been pretty continuous maintenance issues as far as living facilities the entire time that [Bearcat Chat has] been at Shepherd House,” including the toilets not flushing properly, a lack of laundry service and the stove being broken. “The soundproofing is not that great, and we can hear conversations clearly from the next room over. There would need to be a lot of work [for the space to become liveable],” Waldorf added.
However, Kropf is optimistic about the future of the new building, saying that, “It's going to be a really great opportunity for non-first year students to live in a double occupancy area space, and [the new housing] could be helpful for students who are in the [dual degree] programs.” She emphasized that students who had lived in Shepard House prior to its renovation to an office space had extremely positive experiences and enjoyed their time there.
Kropf also mentioned she did a walkthrough of Shepard House on Dec. 1, 2023, and said, “It feels like the major issues are getting wifi back and to get the residential spaces ready with room furniture.” She added that she “took some of our student leaders [Resident Advisors] on a tour over there and they were very excited about the state of the space.” She additionally noted that Shepard House will be available for residential hall tours during February 2024.
Brett Franz, coach of the Triathlon team, declined to be interviewed but sent in an email: “We knew that Shepard House was most likely a temporary spot for Triathlon, but we were grateful that the University gave us access, it worked out really well. The University has been extremely supportive of the new Triathlon program and we are working now to find a new space with the idea of finding a permanent space for the Triathlon program in the future.”