This fall, Boston College’s Special Interest Housing, which now includes residential programs such as the Healthy Alternatives Lifestyle floor, the Romance Languages floor, and Honors Program housing, will be joined by a new program: the Sustainable Living and Learning Community. Located on the seventh floor of Edmond’s Hall, the program will consist of 24 students, split up into six four-person apartments. The application period ends on Friday, Feb. 8, and is only open to rising sophomores.
“We chose sophomores for this pilot because sophomore year is an important time of transition for students,” said Executive Director for the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA) Katherine O’Dair, in an email issued jointly with Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Donald Hafner. “In our discussions with sophomore, junior, and senior students, we discovered that sophomore year can be more isolating than freshman year, as the close-knit community that students had during freshman year has changed … The conversations, joint activities, and interaction with faculty and upperclassmen that can take place in a living/learning community organized around a theme of shared interest can be an effective way for sophomores to form lasting relationships, explore future possibilities, and build skills.”
According to O’Dair and Hafner, the program was, in part, a product of a meeting that the Office of the VPSA and the provost’s office held in the fall of 2011. A group of 30 faculty and staff members discussed ways to integrate students’ academic experiences with their lives outside of class, which produced the idea of a living and learning community. They said that the program has garnered positive responses so far, noting that, in recent years, the topic of sustainability has cropped up more and more frequently, and that members of the BC community are already involved in sustainability efforts around campus.
“As someone who is passionate about sustainability and has been part of the efforts of students, faculty, and staff in this area, I am really excited about the opportunities this program will provide for BC sophomores and the BC community,” said Kate D’Angelo, Resident Director for 66 Comm. Ave., Gabelli, and Voute, in an email.
“There’s a group of faculty members that’s interested in working with us,” said Dorrie Siqueiros, assistant director for the sophomore area. “The environmental studies program and biology are … the programs that we’re working with right now.”
In addition, Siqueiros said that she will be joined by O’Dair and senior students in environmental science classes in vetting applications for the program. D’Angelo has also been working with administrators to create the application and work through the application process. “I am also working with students who, among other contributions, are researching best practices from current sustainability living learning programs in the country,” D’Angelo said. “We will use that research as well as our resources on campus to design the curriculum for our program.”
“We want much of this community to be developed by and for the students who live there and with mentorship from upper-class students,” O’Dair and Hafner said. “So, while the framework and basic expectations for the community have been set, the details of the curriculum and activities will be developed this spring and into the summer with a collaborative group of students, faculty, and staff.”
“With this program, because of the timeline that we’re on, we’re really going to be able to answer to what people want to do,” Siqueiros said. “I’ve worked with the Romance Languages program and the Honors program, and those are pretty set, in terms of what we’re going to be doing with it, but this program-there’s so many resources on campus, it’s such a hot-button topic, and we’re going to have 24 students who are going to drive that conversation. I think each year that the program exists, that’ll happen, but this first year is the most exciting year because these 24 students are really going to have a lot of influence.”
In financial terms, O’Dair and Hafner said that the new program was not anticipated to incur significant expenses. “We expect the students in the living/learning community will meet together weekly, perhaps over dinner, to talk with invited faculty or guest experts about topics of interest, or to plan and carry out a capstone project,” their email read. “We will provide modest funding to the community for such activities, but beyond that, we do not anticipate any major additional operational or administrative costs.”
O’Dair and Hafner suggested that the new sustainability floor would not be the last opportunity for future students to integrate their educational and extracurricular lives. “While we are committed to sophomores in this community, we are also open to expanding the program, including the possibility of living/learning communities focused on other themes, such as social justice or entrepreneurial leadership,” they said.