Residential Commons Program Continues to Grow with the Class of 2021

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Ciccone Commons, pictured above, was the first Commons community at Colgate. This year, for the first time, all members of the Class of 2021 will be part of a Commons community. 

Emily Rahhal, Class of 2021

The Residential Commons housing program continues to expand this year with the introduction of the Brown Commons and Colegrove Commons and the construction projects expected to finish within the next couple of years. 

The program began in 2015 in Curtis and Drake Halls, now known as Ciccone Commons, and expanded to include the Bryan Complex in 2016, now known as Hancock Commons. Currently, the program includes eight first-year and sophomore dorms in four Residential Commons. Upon entering Colgate,  every first-year student will now be placed in a Commons community. 

Associate Chaplain and Catholic Campus Minister Mark Shiner explained that one of the program’s aims is to integrate students’ academic and social lives and immediately provide a welcoming community for all students. Shiner and his wife, Professor of Psychology Rebecca Shiner, were among the first faculty directors of Ciccone Commons. 

President Brian Casey feels the Commons are an important step in creating a sense of community for all  students.

“People should know they belong without having to earn it sometimes. It gets students feeling like they are a part of the community,” Casey said. 

Each Commons community is led by two faculty directors, a Residential Life staff advisor and a student residential fellow. While some involved were nervous the program would not survive after its debut in 2015, Mark Shiner explained that a telling sign that the program had succeeded was the amount of students who volunteered to be Community Leaders in the growing Commons program.

Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies and Women’s Studies and Director of Film and Media Studies Program Mary Simonson shared her perception of the program’s success.

“For a long time, the wisdom here was that first-years lived up on the hill and that you sort of moved down the hill as you moved up in years. We think the Commons can really help [to] strengthen bonds between the class years and let people socialize across the class years,” Simonson said. 

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Jeff Brady, another faculty director of Brown Commons, explained that each Commons community is associated with a house on Broad Street, which is intended to serve as a social hub. The renovations for Brown Commons’ Broad Street house have recently finished and will debut this year, including a newly remodeled kitchen. Brady is excited to share his new knowledge of pizza cooking with the students of Brown Commons.

“You take the faculty out of the situation where they’re necessarily the expert and let them share something that they may just have as a hobby, passion or side project that they’re really interested in doing. They just kind of get to share an interest,” Brady said. 

The faculty members involved with the Residential Commons program have been renovating the Broad Street houses to better integrate the houses with existing Greek and interest group housing on Broad Street. 

“On this campus when it comes to having social capital, Broad Street is kind of where that social capital is, and we want to make that social capital available to all students so that all students feel they have a place to go and belong down here on Broad Street,” Brady said. 

“Moving forward, the program looks to further streamline students’ academic and social experiences on campus by creating First-Year Seminar (FSEM) classes that are Commons-specific and meet in Commons community areas, or integrating the Commons program with other housing programs like Sophomore Residential Seminars,” Mark Shiner said. 

With the construction of two additional residence halls, the program is also expanding physically. The new buildings will include seminar rooms for FSEM classes to meet. 

“I’m really excited to be a part of Ciccone Commons,” first-year Drake Hall resident Griffin Fenady said. “The feeling of community and unity is going to be very new and beneficial to all the [first-year] students.”

Contact Emily Rahhal at [email protected]