Exploring the hidden gems and secret services of New College
A panoramic view of the bayfront from an alcove north of College Hall.

Exploring the hidden gems and secret services of New College

Lush open meadows, vast waterfront vistas, gloriously chaotic musical storerooms and richly decorated wardrobe wracks. Wonders exist for the explorer willing to venture into the unknown flowerbeds and bureaucratic brambles of the New College of Florida campus. Mapping out the hidden destinations and secret services that glimmer at the edges of college life is a joyful and individual process. The following is an invitation and template to start that journey by providing a sample of hidden places and services offered at New College. 

Grass grows taller and the Florida wildlife thicker if one wanders just a bit north of the bay. That full and bright feeling whenever life brims under the sun and sways in the wind welcomes those travelers who make the short walk from College Hall. If one keeps watching for an opening in the thicket on their left, they can veer off into a shaded alcove where stools and chairs overlook a panoramic view of the water. Pass the alcove which overlooks the bay and continue down the shoreline and you’ll eventually reach what Novos call the Tiki Hut, a straw-roofed gazebo lined with benches where groups can relax.

A swing at the top of the banyan tree in The Nook.

Supposing one is adventurous enough to climb the grooves and branches of the banyan tree that rests just outside the Hamilton “Ham” Center—an area commonly referred to as The Nook—a secluded and comfortable overview of the campus courtyard awaits. Hammocks line the treetops for students to wrap themselves in, and a small basket attached to a pulley system can bring valuable items and food for those who made the ascent. The climb may seem daunting to many, but the tree’s shape at its center naturally forms a staircase for climbers to grab hold of on the way up. 

Another assortment of woods welcomes those explorers who take the path behind the Jane Bancroft Cook Library. An unpaved grassy walkway leads from the parking lot at the library’s edge to the shady reprieve. 

The pathway leading to the shady reprieve behind the library.

“I love [the spot behind the library]!” Senior Library Technical Assistant Crishuana Williams shared. “Apparently, it used to be used as an event space because of the amphitheater style and the fruit trees that bloom there. There has been a lot of work over the past month or two to increase the security in that space and make it usable for our community again. I love to go there and have lunch from time to time, and now that there is more adequate lightning, I hope more folks will spend time there! It is definitely one of my favorite ‘hidden’ spaces.”

There are more riches to be found at New College than just those that bloom from nature. New College offers a variety of discreet services and spaces that one can only reach through the willful navigation of student resources and school bureaucracy. 

One such resource is the band room, a rag-tag ensemble of valuable instruments held within an unmarked soundproof room behind the black double doors near the entrance of Ham. Not only is the existence of this resource for musicians and school clubs largely unknown, but the process for obtaining access to the room is comically obtuse. Interested students must contact the band room TA, who will then email Manager & Coordinator of Ham Dawn Shongood, who oversees the room. Shongood then sends a notice to the campus police to be added to “the list,” and later  the police dole out temporary one-day keys for the band room from the Cop Shop, which is on the opposite side of campus. At this time, only six people have gone through the motions to be put on this list. Yet, on the other side of that locked door was an eye-catching array of musical technology and a delightful cubby for practicing music without disturbing the peace. 

A stash of musical goodies found by gaining access to the band room.

“Anyone can use the band room!” current band room TA Aniston Hoffman exclaimed. “All you need to do is email me (aniston.hoffman19@ncf.edu) for key access through the cop shop, equipment checkout access or permission to plan hosting an event in the space. 

“I feel really passionately about the band room,” Hoffman continued. “As hard as it is to work with because it’s been very disorganized and neglected in there until now, I feel that the revitalization of the band room this year will be important to connecting to musical students—or any students—on campus. There are a lot of musicians hidden throughout all sorts of AOCs at New, and I want to give us all a space to create and unleash that potential. We don’t always have the best space or opportunities to be enriched in the arts before in such an academic heavy setting, so I want to make the band room a place for that.” 

Within Ham, the band room isn’t the only place of note for creatives. On the eastern wing of the building facing the residence halls, there is a colorful little room called the costume chop where a brilliant entourage of outfits hang. It’s where Theater Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) students work their magic, designing props and costumes for shows. Yet, all students have access to the space. 

Colorful clothing wracks packed with outfits from the costume shop.

“Any student on campus can use the machines or space,” Black Box Theater (BBT) TA and second-year Audrey Dixon said. “Students can email Tim O’Donnell and ask to reserve the costume shop to work on a sewing project. We have four sewing machines, one serger and tons of supplies needed to make any costume, prop or craft project!” 

These places should provide an excellent start for those seekers looking to map out the undercurrents of the New College campus. However, the best secrets are the ones best kept, and many students were coyly reluctant to give away their favorite spots. The best way to find them, and the memories they bring, is to search for them yourself. 

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