By Keely Savoie
Reflecting the diversity of its campus, Mount Holyoke’s Living-Learning Communities have expanded this year with three new themes: the Arts, for students with interests in everything from architecture to theater; Shirley Chisholm, for students who identify with or who wish to celebrate African descent; and Mosaic, for self-identifying students of color or those with a commitment and investment in diversity and inclusion.
In total, 455 students in campus residential housing reside in the College’s Living-Learning Communities, including 203 first-year students.
“Living-Learning Communities are a way to create communities within the larger campus community, a way for students to connect around a shared interest and really immerse themselves in living it,” said Rachel Alldis, assistant dean of students and director of residential life.
Begun as a pilot program with just two language floors in 2014, the Living- Learning Communities have expanded to meet the needs of various groups of students: First-year student hoping for guidance and companionship? The first-year community is in the MacGregor residence hall. Language aficionado in search of compatriots? Mandelle hosts the Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish floors. Looking for a queer space? The Mary Woolley community welcomes the LGBTQ community. Dedicated to healthy living? Try Livin’ Free at Torrey.
The overall goal is to embrace organic expansion of Living- Learning Communities, while limiting their growth to about a third of residence space. Proposals for new communities can be student-led and are due in November. To determine which new communities to establish, the Office of Residential Life, with staff from student life and the counseling center, assess the popularity of proposed LLC themes and the needs of the community as a whole. The arts community is a product of this process, combining proposals that called for theater, poetry, fine arts and engineering communities. The result was a sum greater than its parts.
“The response was so great,” said Julia Cole ’19, the Community Advisor for one of the two designated Arts floors in Wilder Hall. “We have a lot of first-years and sophomores, but even from the first day they had something to talk about and a connection in common,”
Brandy Williamson and Anne Demosthene ’18, both CAs for the Shirley Chisholm floor, look forward to a semester of community-building events, including rock-climbing and a competitive trivia night.
The third new community, Mosaic, is for students who identify as, or want to celebrate, people of color and are committed to cultural literacy, diversity and inclusion.
“Establishing the Mosaic and Shirley Chisholm communities gives the students who choose to live there the experience of being able to connect in a new way,” said Latrina Denson, assistant dean of students. “It also honors Mount Holyoke’s commitment to keeping diversity front and center in every way.”
The Living-Learning Communities on campus will continue to evolve with the needs of the student population, while many residence halls will remain open spaces for communities to grow organically, said Alldis. By maintaining a thoughtful mix of communities, both themed and unthemed, Mount Holyoke students have access to the best of both worlds and the community as a whole is stronger for it.
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