BY LEAH WILLINGHAM ’17
The Office of Residential Life announced the addition of three new Living Learning Communities for the 2017-2018 school year.
The Shirley Chisholm Community, named after the first African American woman elected to Congress and former Mount Holyoke professor, will support students of African descent or who identify within the African Diaspora. The Mosaic Community will be for students who self-identify as people of color and express a commitment to cultural literacy. The Arts Community will be for students who want to celebrate all forms of art and expression, according to an email sent to the student body by Rachel Alldis on Feb. 10.
The Shirley Chisholm Community and the Mosaic Community will both be housed in Rockefeller Hall. Alldis said she anticipates using both the north and south sides of a floor for the Shirley Chisholm Community, which received 45 nominations out of around 80 in a campaign for students to create their own Living Learn- ing Community last October.
“That’s more students than most floors on campus can hold,” Alldis said. “We felt confident that we could fill the community. There was obviously a demand and interest for it.”
Alldis said that she doesn’t believe there has ever been a living space dedicated to students of the African Diaspora or to students of color in Mount Holyoke history.
In an email about the new Living Learning Communities, Melissa Pérez ’18 said she thinks the communities are a needed, additional step in providing spac- es and resources for racially marginalized people.
“I am confident that the ‘living’ aspect of the Living Learning Communities will encourage students’ growth and self- awareness through daily conversations surrounding race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, religion and spirituality, among other social identities,” Pérez wrote. “The living space will also help students respond/react to news/concerns in our communities in an easy, organic way.”
The Office of Residential Life also received proposals for various art-focused spaces, such as in theater and crafts. The office decided to combine this interest to create an Arts Community.
Miranda Wheeler ’19 expressed excitement about the arts floor.
“We have so many amazing studio artists, musicians, performers and filmmakers in-training that go unnoticed outside of students within their own respective department[s],” Wheeler said. “Our campus is a powerhouse of talent and potential just waiting to be cultivated [and which] deserves a recognized community space in ResLife. At its best, [the Arts Community] could be a place to network, connect, collaborate and flourish. I hope that it’s engaging, active, positive and lives up to its potential.”
Another change next year will be the transition from the Healthy Green Living community in Pearsons Annex to the Ecology Floor, which will be housed in 1837.
This largely has to do with the high demand for the living space. Last year, 53 students applied to be a part of Healthy Green Living, but only 12 could fit into the annex, Alldis said. A floor on 1837 can host around 30 students, according to Alldis. The dorm also provides access to the lake, a golden pear and the community gardens, she added.
Alldis said there won’t be a Living Learning Community next year in Pearsons Annex, however, she said there are some behind-the-scenes plans in the works that would stop it from being open during the lottery process.
The Office of Residential Life also received requests for new language floors in Russian, Arabic and Korean. Alldis said that because of the additions of the Chinese, German and Italian floors this year, they won’t be creating any new language floors for the 2017-2018 academic year. “Because we grew them so much last year, we thought, ‘Let’s give it a year in its new space to see how it will work out, and then we’ll see what we can do with adding more languages to it this year,’” Alldis said.
She said that Mandelle Hall will be large enough to hold the current language floors and allow the program to grow in the future. She hopes people won’t mind the shift from Mead to the Mandelles, where the language floors have been housed since the program started with French and Spanish in 2015.
“This will be an experiment to see if people really liked it, or they liked that it was in a really nice location,” Alldis said. “I don’t know which way they’ll go with that.”
Alldis said the concept of language floors reemerged at Mount Holyoke in 2015, but was actually conceived of in the 1950s, when Ham Hall was the language building.
Porter, Safford, Brigham and Pear- sons all used to be first-year dorms, an alum told Alldis. Today, MacGregor Hall is used for first-year students.
Alldis said she wouldn’t ever want to grow the Living Learning Program beyond 33 percent of the Mount Holyoke community. It’s currently close to 15 percent.
“We’re on a good trajectory, but I don’t want this to get too big,” Alldis said. “I don’t want people thinking that the only way they can live in a place they want to is by selecting a Living Learning Community. I want it to be because they want to live in those communities because they see value in them.”