This is the second article in a series profiling the presidents of Northwestern’s residential colleges.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many cancellations – from Dance Marathon to Dillo to in-person graduation. But the event that Women’s Residential College president and Medill first-year Melanie Lust is most upset about missing isn’t any of these.
“I had tickets to see the Philadelphia Orchestra,” Lust says. “They were going to be at Carnegie Hall playing Beethoven’s third and second symphonies.”
Lust started playing the viola in fourth grade, when she joined the school orchestra on violin. There were too many violinists already and the conductor put her on viola, which she has played ever since. She also taught herself to play the piano in her freshman year of high school.
Lust has a deep love for classical music performance. While you might find her peers listening to Taylor Swift or Kanye, Lust jams out to Beethoven and Mozart (see her Spotify playlist “classical music to throw down to” and her NBN article about making classical music sexy again).
“Usually when people talk about music, I’m just completely unable to participate because I have no idea what they’re talking about,” Lust said. “Unless I’m talking to Bienen kids. Then I can actually jam.”
But Lust isn’t a Bienen student. She’s not even involved in campus music groups, beyond sneaking into Bienen practice rooms to use the pianos every so often. Even stronger than her interest in classical music is her love of journalism.
In her hometown of Westport, Connecticut, Lust was involved with her high school newspaper for all four years of high school, becoming editor-in-chief of the publication her senior year. Now, Lust majors in journalism at Northwestern.
“The heart of all journalism is storytelling.” Lust said, “I’ve always loved a good story, and I love hearing stories from other people.”
Lust knows exactly what she wants when it comes to her career, and she’s glad to attend her first-choice school. However, when it comes to living at Northwestern, she’s especially glad she missed her first-choice residence, Willard, and ended up living in Hobart House, the Women’s Residential College (WRC).
“I actually didn’t know that it was the Women’s Residential College until a few weeks before I moved in,” Lust said. “I was really excited to not see men again, as harsh as that might sound. I live with two older brothers, and it can definitely get to be a lot sometimes. So Hobart has been a really nice break.”
Now, Lust serves as the president of Hobart. She ran for the position because the residential college's supportive and uplifting community helped make her transition to college less intimidating.
“Hobart’s community is so supportive and tight-knit in a way that’s different from literally every other dorm on campus,” Lust said. “That’s something that you’ll only be able to understand if you move here. The fact that we all identify as women gives us a lot of opportunities to bond and that just makes it such a nice comfortable place to live.”
Still, Lust said she also ran for president because she saw areas for improvement, especially regarding gender inclusivity.
“That’s something that matters a lot to me because I have a lot of nonbinary friends,” Lust said.
The Hobart executive board recently updated their constitution and the WRC website, replacing the pronoun “she” with “they” and “female” or “woman” with “woman-identifying.” Hobart also has a gender-neutral bathroom on the first floor.
“We’re trying to be really inclusive of trans women and non-binary people,” Lust said. She said that her primary goal is to continue to promote Hobart as being “a space where people can feel comfortable and safe.”
Additionally, Lust and the rest of Hobart’s executive board have been working to maintain a sense of community during the virtual quarter.
“I want to make sure that our community is robust and transparent enough that people can have access to it if they want it or if they need it,” Lust said.
The board has maintained contact with Hobartians via various events, such as virtual Fellows’ Lunches and Teas, as well as movie nights and a philanthropy project raising money for the World Food Programme via freerice.com.
Hosting events like these is especially important for Lust. Going virtual means Hobartians can no longer have informal interactions in the house’s various living spaces, one of Lust’s favorite parts of living in Hobart.
“Sometimes I’ll walk in late at night and there will just be people in the TV lounge watching something,” Lust said. “I love how it’s accessible to just walk in and sit down and watch with them – even if you don’t know them that well – because the community is so tight-knit.”
In addition to the community, Lust also touted Hobart’s amenities. Hobart has two TV lounges, a ping-pong table and two recently renovated kitchens. Lust highlights that Hobart has its own exercise room exclusive to its approximately 50 residents. She also noted that Hobart has “very nice, modern bathrooms,” a luxury compared to some other dorms on campus.
Overall, Lust said there are many perks of living in Hobart.
“I’ve made a lot of amazing friends there,” she said. “My freshman year experience definitely wouldn’t have been the same without it.”
Favorite place at Northwestern:
Beethoven. “A lot of his music is kind of godlike and crazy and huge and grand, but there’s a whole other half of his repertoire that’s very sad, intimate, private music where you can see that he’s just this emotional guy like the rest of us. That duality really appeals to me a lot.”
Deering or Main:
Deering. “By a long shot … The aesthetic of Deering is just so superior.”
Favorite place to eat on campus:
Sargent or Fran’s at 11 p.m.
“Sargent because they have the best desserts of any dining hall, easily. Fran’s at 11 p.m. because I will always bump into one of my friends there, and the piano is nice.
Prof. Claudia Swan’s “Baroque Art: Rembrandt.”
“It was the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death so Claudia Swan designed a curriculum herself and created this very cool and interactive art history class. We got to go to lots of museums and lots of talks. And she’s just so knowledgeable and made it really interesting, especially for a subject that I did not know anything about before.”
Go-to fun fact:
“I used to have two lizards and a pet snake.”
Favorite TV show:
Avatar: The Last Airbender.
“Only art and science can raise men to the level of God.” - Beethoven
“I kind of fuck with that.”
Favorite modern band:
My Chemical Romance. “There are similarities between classical music and MCR. You usually only see them in the guitar solos. Ray Toro, who is the lead guitarist, is really intelligent and knows his music theory very well. So you can see [similarities] sometimes in the way that they so willingly use dissonances and overlapping harmonies.”
“I’ve been scootering around town a lot and social distancing with friends as much as my paranoid self will allow. [I’m] just trying to get out every day and walk and observe nature.”
International correspondent based in South America.
Favorite work of art:
Eugène Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People.” “Part of it is the fact that the focal point is a huge naked woman. But it’s also a really nice message about fighting for your freedom.”
Editor's Note: Melanie Lust is a staff writer for NBN's opinion section