SLIS West Community
Intimate classroom settings and lasting relationships between students, faculty, and staff is what SLIS West is known for. While the program is not situated within a metropolitan area like Boston, students will find plenty to do in the surrounding Pioneer Valley and a strong community to support them during their stay. Many times through out the year the SLIS West student group, LISSA West, hosts social events both on and off campus throughout the Pioneer Valley. In the past these events have included bowling, trivia nights, movie and game nights, Super Bowl parties, gatherings at local restaurants and parks for drinks and dinner, to hikes at Mt. Tom and Mt. Skinner.
- Our Community: Housing & Travel
- Where to Eat
- The Pioneer Valley
- What To Do in the Pioneer Valley
- The Great Outdoors
Our Community: Housing & Transportation
SLIS West Community & Housing Network and Other Housing Options
To support the far-flung students of the SLIS West program, the SLIS West Community & Housing Network Wiki was created to connect students to others just like them. On the wiki you will find information on emergency housing, rideshare/carpooling options, and a general classified section for students to list textbooks for sale, rooms/apartments for rent, upcoming events, local restaurant reviews, and hidden gems they've found in the Valley and beyond.
The Willits-Hallowell conference center on the MHC campus is also a hotel. For information about hotel reservations please call 413-538-2217.
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) runs public buses all over the region, including a bus that connects South Hadley to Amherst and Northampton (route ) Check the schedule and fare information carefully; bus service stops at night and does not run during holidays and school breaks. The PVTA site also includes a trip planner.
Students may also take advantage of ZipCar Car Borrowing Service with several pick-up and drop-off locations in South Hadley, Amherst, and Northampton (just to name a few!)
Parking on Campus
SLIS West students may park in the lower level of the Village Commons parking lot. Do not park in the two hour spaces in front of the Village Commons, these spaces are maintained and monitored by the South Hadley police and are not part of the Village Commons parking area. In addition to the Village Commons lot on Saturdays when classes are taking place students can park in any Faculty/Staff parking space on the MHC campus.
Where to Eat
The Tailgate Café in the Village Commons is a popular spot to grab some lunch between classes for SLIS West students. The Tailgate serves traditional deli style fare. Students will often gather in the SLIS West office for lunch. For a quick pick me up between classes the Thirsty Mind is a popular coffee shop and study spot. Rao's Coffee is located in the lobby of the MHC Library. Students can also get food at the Blanchard Center on the MHC campus.
Twice a semester on the first and last day of classes LISSA West hosts a breakfast. In addition to the breakfasts several lunch events also take place in the office.
The Pioneer Valley
Ringed by mountain ranges and bisected by the meandering Connecticut River, the Pioneer Valley of Western Mass., (a.k.a. the Happy Valley), consists of Franklin, Hampshire, and Hamden counties.
Less than two hours from Boston, less than three from New York City, and one hour from the heart of the Berkshires, the Valley is home to more than 25 colleges and universities, as well as writers, musicians, artists, artisans, and hundreds of nonprofits. The Pioneer Valley is also known for the Five College Consortium — Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges, and UMass Amherst, the flagship of the state university system. A staggering 42 percent of the population has graduate degrees, among the highest percentage in the country. The New York Times has called the Pioneer Valley "arguably the most author-saturated, book-cherishing, literature-celebrating place in the nation." Resources of all sorts await discovery by those who live and work here, or simply attend classes.
What to Do in the Pioneer Valley
Even the smallest communities in the Pioneer Valley have unique personalities and entertainment options. You can find at least one of everything some place in the Pioneer Valley. Several websites offer comprehensive listings of events, museums, and performances, as well as information on music, movies, clubs, dancing, karaoke, bowling, rollerblading, and other activities. We've included a few suggestions below.
Bowling, Rollerblading, Pool, Karaoke, and Beyond
Spare Time in Northampton (www.sparetimenorthampton.net) is a fun place to bowl and karaoke, although not at the same time. Interskate 91 in Hadley is a great place for rollerblading and laser tag: www.interskate91.com/north/. Packard's at 14 Masonic Street in Northampton is known for its pool tables. Bishop's Lounge at 41 Strong Street in Northampton has karaoke on Sunday nights.
Springfield is home to New England's largest amusement park, Six Flags. It also hosts the Big E, the state agricultural fair held for three weeks each September. The Yankee Candle flagship store is based in Deerfield. Information about Pioneer Valley Roller Derby can be found at www.pioneervalleyrollerderby.com.
The Amherst Cinema in Amherst offers top-quality art movies: www.amherstcinema.org. The Cinemark at the Hampshire Mall in Hadley offers recent Hollywood movies. The Tower Theaters, located directly over the SLIS West office, offers Saturday matinees in case your afternoon class doesn't meet.
Located about a 20-minute drive from Amherst, the Montague Bookmill ("books you don't need in a place you can't find") offers thousands of books at half-price. The beautiful setting in an old mill also includes an art studio, a music and movie emporium, the Lady Killigrew café, and the Night Kitchen restaurant: www.montaguebookmill.com/.
Among the many museums in the Valley are the National Yiddish Book Center, the Emily Dickinson Museum, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and Historic Deerfield. Museums10 is a consortium of the museums of the Five Colleges: www.museums10.org.
The Pioneer Valley is known for its alternative and indie rock, folk, and country. A popular local radio staton is the River, WRSI 93.9-FM (www.wrsi.com). The station features new and local music and offers information about summer festivals and other musical events. You can also hear superb classical music in the Valley, including concerts by Springfield Symphony Orchestra. The local NPR affiliate, WFCR, at 88.5-FM (www.wfcr.org) plays classical music weekdays and offers an events calendar on its website. Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is in the Berkshires, an hour west of South Hadley.
New England Peace Pagoda
The Peace Pagoda in Leverett, a village just north of Amherst, was the first Nipponzan Myohoji Peace Pagoda to be built in the U.S. Completed in 1986, it was built entirely with donated materials and labor. The pagoda is one of 80 Buddhist Peace stupas around the world and is a serene, quiet place for contemplation and meditation: www.newenglandpeacepagoda.com.
Many, many communities offer first-rate theater, music, opera, dance, and other performances. The Fine Arts Center at UMass Amherst, www.umass.edu/fac hosts a variety of performers from across the spectrum of the arts. The university's Mullins Center gets in national tours of Broadway shows and big musical acts: www.mullinscenter.com.
High school sports are very popular in the Pioneer Valley, as are college teams, especially the UMass Minutemen and Minutewomen. Springfield is home to several minor league teams, including the Falcons (AHL hockey) and the Armour (NBA development league). Holyoke hosts the Holyoke Blue Sox.
Among the many theater offerings are the New Century Theatre in Northampton (www.newcenturytheatre.org) and Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield (www.doubleedgetheatre.org). The former typically produces plays previously seen on Broadway and the latter, original theater performances.
The Great Outdoors
A major appeal of the Pioneer Valley is the accessibility of hiking, biking, boating, skiing, snowshoeing, and other outdoor sports and activities. SLIS West students often get together several times during the semester for local walks and hikes.
Skinner State Park in Hadley is just a couple of miles from the Mount Holyoke campus, and hiking trails take you to the summit in short or long treks. You can also drive to the summit in a few minutes; the view at sunset is well worth the twisty drive. The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, or M-M, extends 114 miles from Connecticut to New Hampshire: amcberkshire.org/mm-trail. Another good resource for local hiking is the Pioneer Valley Hiking Club: pioneervalleyhikingclub.org/. Plug in your zip code at www.trails.com/ for trails near you.
Western Mass. is the beneficiary of enthusiastic rails-to-trails programs. Recently, several of the Valley's bike trails were connected. It's now possible to bike on paved trails from Belchertown to Williamsburg and south to Easthampton, www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/central/nwrt.htm.
All kinds of boating — including white water, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, power boating, and rowing — take place on the various rivers and lakes that stripe and dot the Pioneer Valley. Public boat ramps and marinas provide easy water access. Boats, ATVs, and snowmobiles need to be registered.
Fishing & Hunting
Anyone who wants to fish or hunt in Western Mass. is required to have a license. More information can be found at www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/recreation/licensing/licensing_home.htm.
Cross-country skiing is as close as the nearest golf course or nature preserve, while the nearest downhill slopes are near the Vermont border at Berkshire East (www.berkshireeast.com). In the warm months the facility offers zip line tours of the canopy. Many people also come to the Valley to snowshoe and ice skate. Snowmobiles need to be registered, and fishermen need to be licensed.
For more on what to do in the Pioneer Valley and Hampshire County, please visit http://visithampshirecounty.com/