Connect to Colgate Program Hopes to Foster Community at Colgate


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COMMUNITY CONNECTED: Colgate’s Student Government Association launches Connect to Colgate (C2C) with the hopes of creating friendships across different class years.

Student Government Association (SGA) recently announced a new community program, Connect to Colgate (C2C), that aims to foster new connections and long-term changes across the Colgate community. Students first received notice of the initiative in an Oct. 18 email written by SGA President and senior Elle Winter. 

C2C hopes to bolster inter-class connections by pairing underclassmen with upperclassmen based on shared interests and identities, according to the email. The pairs are required to meet monthly, but their relationship can be as casual or as personal as they would like. During the application process, participants filled out a form in which they could disclose their interests and aspects of their identity that they would like to have in common with their assigned partner.

The SGA C2C Committee then reviewed all the applications to pair each student with their best-fit match. The committee consisted of Winter, Speaker of the Senate junior Matt McKenna, Liaison to Student Organizations junior Parna Shakouri, Treasurer junior Marco Greico, Underclassman Experience Facilitator in Cabinet sophomore MacKenzie Lahren, and five other senators.

Winter offered insight into SGA’s intention of the initiative.  

“The intention of C2C is to connect students with similar-minded people who can positively impact their Colgate experience,” Winter said. 

According to Winter, she developed the program as part of her campaign for SGA President during the Spring 2021 semester. She felt as though C2C would greatly improve the school’s ability to foster one-on-one connections between upper and underclassmen to provide the friendly guidance and support that can define one’s time at Colgate.

“I talked to the leaders of lots of different student organizations that do a great job of creating communities on campus, specifically a lot of cultural groups, but I thought something could be done to help students form one-on-one connections,” Winter said.

C2C participant and senior Sarah Billings expressed her thoughts on the need for a program such as C2C at Colgate and the invaluable guidance one can find through an upper-underclassman relationship. 

“I think Colgate does have a lot of strong communities, but often people don’t know where to find [them], so this is a perfect opportunity to expose those interests and reach a wider audience than just your class year,” Billings said. “It’s also really beneficial that the program combines upper and lower class years because the former has hopefully had experiences within a certain community that they can share with someone who is newer to the Colgate community and doesn’t know where to start or how to get involved.”

Winter shared similar sentiments towards the program’s importance, emphasizing the need for inter-class relations and the significance of establishing strong connections with people of similar backgrounds. Winter argues that, by design, this connection could potentially help students, particularly underclassmen, understand where they might define themselves within the Colgate community. 

“My biggest reason for creating this program was that students expressed a desire to get to know other class years better, and it’s SGA’s responsibility to address gaps in the Colgate student experience,” Winter said. “The program also uniquely accounts for intersectional identities. For example, some participants want to connect with those that share both their sexual orientation and their race, as there are aspects of their [Colgate] experience that those who only share one of these identities may not relate to.”

Winter also reflected on her time as a member of Link Staff. As Links, upperclassmen are able to help incoming first-years transition into the Colgate community and gain insight from older students. She remarked that although mentor programs like Link Staff and Community Leaders do an excellent job at connecting students to important resources, the mentors may not share interests and identities with these students, thereby reinforcing the need for a program such as C2C. 

“If I didn’t share that aspect of their identity, there’s always a feeling that there’s a level of guidance I’m not able to give them,” Winter said. “I think that C2C can close this gap by offering underclassmen the opportunity to connect with people and groups on campus that may understand them better.”

First-year Katie Victor reflected on what she’s looking forward to in getting to know her upperclassman partner. 

“I would like to meet people who I might not have met otherwise, and [who also] have another point of reference for any questions I have while […] learning how to navigate Colgate. I am hoping to, ideally, gain a friend,” Victor said. 

Billings noted her excitement to provide guidance to an underclassman who shares similar interests.

“As a senior, I’m currently experiencing a lot of nostalgia from my first and second years at Colgate, so it’ll be great to meet someone who also has interests similar to mine so that I can help them find their path and their people like I was fortunate to find here at Colgate,” Billings said. 

Although C2C is in its inaugural run, there have been over 100 applicants, with the ratio of upper to underclassmen roughly equal. Shakouri commented on the program’s promising numbers.

“We had a very diverse range of people,” Shakouri said. “We had people who really cared about finding someone affiliated [with a Greek organization]. We had people who cared about their academic interests. We had people who really cared about their ethnicity, finding someone of their own background.”

In light of this participation, Winter remarked on how she sees the further development of C2C in the coming years.

“As it grows during future years, I hope we can introduce some degree of training for participants,” Winter said. “There’s an inherent power dynamic in any connection between upper and underclassmen and I want our participants to be able to navigate that in a healthy way. I hope that the result of the program will be that participants, particularly our underclassmen, feel more connected to communities on campus.”

Shakouri also mentioned ways in which the program could further develop, including potentially reaching out to incoming first-year students.

“I think it’s a program that has the potential to last for a really long time,” Shakouri said. “I hope that at some point in the future it might extend to incoming freshmen, because I know that before I came to Colgate I had so many doubts and questions and I really could’ve used the guidance of someone who had my interests or shared my background.”

The Pairing Presentation event on Nov. 1 is an SGA sponsored event in which pairs would be able to get to know each other. SGA intends on hosting many more C2C events within time, such as movie nights.

“My intention is to make the event upbeat and fun,” Winter said.  

Roughly two thirds of the C2C participants attended the event, which included a slideshow presentation to announce pairs and was catered by a bakery in New Hartford.