Manhattan College unveiled that it will be offering common interest living communities options for students next year in an email to the student body last Tuesday.
The common interest communities “are a series of themed residences where sophomores, juniors and seniors can enhance their experiences at the college by living with other students who share their interests – regardless of what their academic courses or majors might be,” the email from the Office of Residence Life read.
The common interest communities or themed living is an option that’s available at most institutions today,” Director of Residence Life Andrew Weingarten said. “There’s a lot of research on it that shows that it supports student satisfaction, persistence in college, recruitment, retention of students. It provides more opportunities for student leadership.”
The idea of students with a common interest living together is not a new one at the school. For years, engineering majors have lived together on the same floor in Jasper Hall.
“We’ve done it for a long time informally in Jasper [Hall]for a few years,” he said. Weingarten called that arrangement very popular and said there’s always an interest of students trying to live in that informal community.
“It’s almost a why-not,” he said.
While Weingarten confirmed that the common interest living communities will go into effect next year, he said the specifics of the program are not fully developed yet.
“I know that any program or offering for students is only going to be effective and successful with student input and student involvement. It’s really important to remember that,” he said. “We can set the framework, the idea is there, but it’s not fully developed yet. How it will evolve, that will depend on student feedback.”
Right now, the proposed options that students are providing feedback on through an online survey include the following: engineering, entrepreneurship, environmental issues and sustainability, health professions, IMPACT (Inspiring Means to Promote Authentic Community Transformation), Nuestra Casa, and performing arts and visual culture.
Each community will involve specialized programming, and some will offer relevant community service or leadership opportunities.
Nuestra Casa is the only cultural living program proposed on the list. Its goal is to pair English-speaking students with Spanish-speaking students to enhance Spanish language proficiency by committing to speak Spanish 90 percent of the time.
Where these communities will be located or offered is also not decided yet.
“There will be where they make the most sense,” Weingarten said. “We would need dedicated space for programming.”
One thing that is for certain is that these common interest communities will not be offered for incoming freshman.
“We’re likely going to make it an option for continuing students,” Weingarten said, citing both housing lottery logistics and the existence of the Arches living-learning community that currently serves incoming freshman.
“There’s a lot of interest in the Arches for next year,” he said. “In a way, that’s currently our offering for freshman.”
Currently, residence life is gathering the results of the survey for more feedback on the various proposed programs. Weingarten said that afterwards, the office will make a decision about which programs to implement so that the options will be established and developed in time for students to sign up for them during the housing lottery.
Weingarten called student feedback to the announcement positive and said that “there’s an excitement about it. We were surprised that we got a lot of responses” to the survey.
These types of living-learning communities are commonplace at many colleges and universities across the nation, including other local institutions in New York City.
Fordham University has separate first year and upperclassmen integrated living-learning communities, with an option for substance free living for all students. It also offers academic programming and honors enrichment living environments, some of which require a formal application process.
Columbia University’s programs more similarly reflect the proposed common interest communities at Manhattan College. Some focus on ethnic or cultural similarities, like providing support for Latino or indigenous students, while others are based on collective student interests like writing, jazz music or environmental sustainability. Columbia, like Fordham, also offers a substance-free, wellness-oriented living option.
Some Manhattan College students expressed an interest in the idea of a common interest community but said the offerings on the email did not appeal to them.
“It seems interesting, but some of the communities didn’t apply to me,” Alanna Hupe said.
“If it [the offerings] were more vague, it would be easier to see myself in that group,” Markie Teriele said.
Other students also said they liked the idea, but that they probably would not live in a common interest community for a variety of reasons.
Maggie Tebbetts said she would live in the engineering common interest community, but that not all of her roommates are interested in engineering so that her suite would probably not agree to live in the engineering community.
Some students said that they think a common interest community would limit their social experience.
“I want to meet more people without the same interests as me,” Gabriella Connor said. “You’re only seeing those people.”
Bridget McEpuy said that she thinks clubs are a better way to connect with people with the same interests.
“Living [with the same people] is a little extreme,” she said.