Students discover ‘Oasis’ in the Yard

Students hunker down for study and for conversations in the Student Oasis. Photo by Jeffrey Blackwell/Memorial Church Communications

2 min read

By Jeffrey Blackwell, Memorial Church Communications

For freshman Wassim Marrakchi, the Student Oasis on the ground level of the Memorial Church is a secret sanctuary for study, for quiet socializing and for making slatetblankit, a dish from his Tunisian homeland, for his Canaday housemates.

“This place has been a really great place for me to share nice moments with my friends, but also when I need some time alone, I can find it here,” said Marrakchi ’21. “I think more students are getting to know the space because every time I come here, I’m surprised to find more people.”

The Student Oasis opened a year ago following an eight-month renovation of the church, which featured a complete redesign of the ground level, carving out a much-needed space for students in the center of Harvard Yard.

With its contemporary kitchen, versatile meeting rooms, serene study lounge, and award-winning design, the Oasis is not only developing into a popular refuge for students, campus groups and members of the Harvard community, but is also one of the most diverse student spaces on campus.

“I feel it has been successful because we set out to create a space that would serve as a site of human connection,” said Jonathan L. Walton, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church. “No matter who you are, no matter where you’re from, you will find a place of comfort, and more importantly, a space of grace.”

On a normal day during the academic year, the Oasis is bustling from early in the morning following Morning Prayers, to late in the evening when the doors shut at night.

Over the course of the day, students nest at study tables writing papers and finishing homework, while others perch at the kitchen counter for a quick lunch or recline in comfortable couches pressed in deep conversations with friends. And on a typical night, the members of Harvard’s Mellon Mays Fellows, Cru, Athletes in Action, or other campus groups may be meeting in one of the conference rooms while the Harvard University Choir or The Kuumba Singers of Harvard College rehearses in the choir room or sanctuary.