The Residential Commons Opens its Doors in Curtis and Drake Halls


Curtis and Drake pilot new living program for first-year and sophomore students.

The Residential Commons, a project led by University Chaplain and Catholic Campus Minister Mark Shiner and Professor of Psychology and Presidential Scholar Rebecca Shiner, is a new living and learning community aimed at restructuring the first-year and sophomore residential life experiences. Designed with dual residential components, students will have access to upper-campus residences and a corresponding house on Broad Street in the form of an annex.

With many Colgate students, past and present, calling for increased faculty and student interaction, the Commons  are designed to better share faculty and staff expertise with students in academic and social situations, and fulfill many other wishes for a more interconnected campus.

“The Residential Commons is Colgate’s attempt to shift our residential program to one that will not only improve the more problematic aspects of this campus, but also create a situation where people will have the chance to create a seamless connection between their social and academic lives,” Mark Shiner said.

The Broad Street annex (100 Broad Street) will serve as a common living area for first-year and sophomore students, giving them the opportunity to meet upperclassmen and have larger social and academic events. As an active living and learning community, the Commons will host a variety of events that include bagel brunches, public parties and art shows in both residential areas for all involved students.

“The Commons is designed to give students a home for all four years at Colgate, no matter if a student later becomes involved with athletics, Greek Life or other activities,” Mark Shiner said.

Along with the residential portion of the program, each Commons is associated with a first-year seminar (FSEM), with all of the students in the corresponding FSEM living in the same upper-campus residence hall. To hold these classes within the buildings, classrooms were built and renovated within each residence hall.

“We’ve planned this program very consciously after looking at many other schools throughout the country that have utilized this system for years,” Mark Shiner said. 

With the unveiling of the program at the start of the fall semester, there are currently 200 first-year and 200 sophomore students living in the Curtis-Drake Residential Commons, which has recently undergone extensive renovations. Forty upperclassmen live in the designated annex at 100 Broad Street. While Curtis and Drake Halls are the only residences included in this year’s Commons program, the anticipated four-year plan aims to add more faculty-led communities to Colgate’s campus, which will include the Bryan Complex, Andrews, Stillman, East and West Halls.

“I like the idea of the Commons since it’s a great way to interact with people on campus whom you normally wouldn’t meet. I think it will be more successful in future years when sophomores are able to choose to live in the program based on its own merit,” sophomore Melanie Oliva said.

Mark Shiner similarly expressed positive sentiments about the future of the Curtis-Drake Residential Commons.

“We hope that the Commons will give students a chance to be proud of something that they’re involved in on campus, as well as a meaningful identity and sense of belonging.” Mark Shiner said.