Ciccone, Hancock Commons Name New Codirectors

Colgate named new Residential Commons co-directors for Hancock and Ciccone Commons beginning this upcoming Fall 2021 semester. Associate Professor of Russian and Eurasian Studies Jessica Graybill and Director of Thought into Action Carolyn Strobel will lead Ciccone Commons. Professor of Biology and Environment Studies and Chair of the Department of Biology Frank Frey and University Librarian and Professor in the University Libraries Courtney Young will direct Hancock Commons. 

Every first-year and sophomore student resides in buildings organized under one of Colgate’s four Residential Commons. According to the University, co-directors are jointly appointed to three-year terms by the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty and the Office of the Vice President and Dean of the College. Co-directors work in conjunction with residential life staff, Commons fellows and Community Leaders (CLs) to foster community and curiosity among students. 

According to Professor of Psychology and former Ciccone Commons Co-Director Rebecca Shiner, the Commons system was founded in 2015 to foster inclusivity and increase students’ intellectual engagement beyond the classroom. 

“We hoped to create spaces where students would have an opportunity to get to know a wide range of other students from different backgrounds, to feel part of a robust community and to have fun, positive experiences together,” Shiner said. “Students who feel at home in their residential spaces are better able to engage in their academic work and to participate in all that the campus has to offer.” 

According to Shiner, a benefit of residential education is its extension beyond the classroom which, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, has offered a richer residential experience for students. Shiner claims that the link between the required first-year seminar courses (FSEM) and the Commons offers students the opportunity to live and connect with peers and in turn have richer FSEM experiences. Commons co-directors are responsible for upholding the Commons’ mission of fostering an intellectual and inclusive residential experience. 

“I feel really proud of what we have accomplished in Ciccone Commons,” Shiner said. “Students are so much more likely to know each other on their floors and within their communities now. I have been delighted about the positive feedback I’ve gotten from FSEM faculty about how strong the connections are among the students in their FSEMs.”

In appointing new Commons co-directors, incumbent co-directors met with faculty and staff who were interested in learning more about the goals of the Commons and the roles of co-directors. Dean of the College Paul McLoughlin and Provost and Dean of the Faculty Tracey Hucks facilitated the selection process, Shiner said. 

According to Graybill, the nomination to become a leader of Ciccone Commons provided an opportunity to interact with students outside of the classroom. 

“[The nomination] was such an amazing honor,” Graybill said. “And, in conversation with Paul McLoughlin about the position, I became convinced that the Commons is a great place for me to support students in a holistic way. That has always been a goal for me in my classes and now I can extend that even more to students.” 

Strobel, who will lead Ciccone Commons alongside Graybill, expressed enthusiasm about building relationships with Ciccone residents, CLs and Link Staff, Colgate’s orientation staff. According to Strobel, one of her primary goals as a  new co-director is to provide students with opportunities to engage in social, intellectual and recreational activities outside of their typical involvements. In addition to facilitating experiences and fostering curiosity, Graybill and Strobel expressed their desires to support students in the transition to post-pandemic residential life. 

“Some of the first things that Professor Graybill and I will be thinking about are what have we missed out on over the past year that we now have the opportunity to do?” Strobel said. “In what ways can we support our mental health as we grapple with what has happened during the pandemic and afterward?” 

In the interest of fostering the connection between students’ residential lives and classroom experiences, the completion of the Residential Commons system was among the first initiatives of the Third-Century Plan, Colgate’s plan for the university’s third century that emphasizes diversity, equity and inclusion and sustainability. According to Strobel, the Third-Century Plan provides a strong framework for the next three years of the Commons. 

“I think that in particular, a focus on wellness and on [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] (DEI) will be essential, especially with the events that we have grappled with nationally and internationally over the past year,” Strobel said. “I want to think about how the Commons can seamlessly support those areas and help meet students’ needs. Mark and Rebecca Shiner have created a strong foundation for Ciccone Commons over the past five years, and I want to build upon that and enhance the work that has already been put in place.”