The Colgate Scene
May 2004

In celebration of student life
An update on the new residential education program

Jim Sherwin '05, a member of Charred Goosebeak, entertains the audience during the student comedy troupe's opening sketch during a performance in the basement of Creative Arts House. Additional resources and encouragement provided through the new Broad Street Community, said President Chopp, have sparked a resurgence of activities at theme houses such as Creative Arts House, Cushman House, the Loj, and others. [Photo by Aubrey Graham]

Finals and graduation are approaching fast as I write this column in mid-April, and when I look back over the past year I am continually reminded of the many ways in which living in a residential community contributes to the education of our students. Colgate has been a residential institution for virtually its entire history, and generations of students have formed their worldviews through participation in the life of the campus as well as through their coursework.

Our work in strategic planning looked at ways that we could build on Colgate's traditional strengths to deliver the best possible experience for our undergraduates. Conceiving of life on campus as "residential education," we looked for ways to make the most of this rare opportunity that students have to live together for four years -- in essence to create a practical (and fun) environment where students can learn the skills of personal success and engaged citizenship.

Dean of the College Adam Weinberg leads our residential education initiatives, but he is the first to acknowledge that it is the efforts of faculty, staff, and especially students that fuel the success of the program. There is enormous energy about our campus life, and it covers the spectrum of interests from athletics to voluntarism.

For example, reviving what was once a strong tradition at Colgate, the debate club drew an impressive crowd for the parliamentary debate it staged in the Palace Theater earlier this semester. The Palace has been the venue for a wide range of student-coordinated events, including two "battles of the bands," performances of musical theater, the Konosioni auction for charity, a "neighbor-to-neighbor" program that brought student tenants together with landlords from the community, a presentation of Vagina Monologues, viewing Colgate's NCAA football playoff run on a giant TV screen, as well as many dance nights for which the facility was designed.

Upsurge in social programs
Theme houses have been a feature of Colgate's residential life for many years, but with additional resources and encouragement provided through the new Broad Street Community we have seen a resurgence of activities at places such as Creative Arts House, which staged student theater in its basement, sponsored social events, patterned "Release Night" after a popular form of urban open-mic sessions, and this spring brought more than 20 campus events under the umbrella of the Colgate Arts! Festival. Students who share an interest in athletics have occupied Cushman House, where soccer alumni were recently welcomed back for a reception and party.

There are other examples up and down Broad Street, including in Greek-letter houses such as Phi Delta Theta, which sponsors two blood drives each semester; Delta Delta Delta and Theta Chi, which cosponsored a pancake breakfast that raised $500 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital; and the Up 'Til Dawn fundraiser sponsored by the Panhellenic Association, which has raised $23,500 for St. Jude's.

Social events are also a feature of life on Broad Street, and in addition to the programming in fraternity and sorority houses we have seen an upsurge in social programs in college houses, with events as diverse as a community barbecue at the Loj (a theme house for students with an interest in the environment), a Cuban food party at Asia Interest House, and Japanese Cultural Night at the Class of '34 House. In all, there were nearly 70 social events staged by college houses along Broad Street during the fall semester alone.

Many of you know that we have made offers to acquire the Broad Street facilities that are owned by fraternities and sororities. The plan is the best way for Colgate to continue to provide an option for our students who want to live in fraternities and sororities that contribute to the mission of the college. I am optimistic that the plan will further enhance the Broad Street Community and create benefits both for the university and for students who want to join and live in fraternities and sororities.

Even as the day winds down, the Wm. Brian Little Fitness Center in Huntington Gym is always busy. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

Alumni contribute
Food has proven to be a common theme for many of our extracurricular events this year. In its "Breaking Bread" program, the ALANA Cultural Center has employed common dinners to bring together such divergent groups such as SEA (Students for Environmental Action) and LASO (Latin American Student Organization) to plan events that they will sponsor together. The sophomore class has brought professors and students together to discuss a variety of topics over popular Democracy Dinners at Merrill House or at the Colgate Inn. Asia Awareness Coalition attracted more than 160 students, faculty members, and townspeople to its annual banquet. The cultural center has become a hub of activity this year, providing opportunities for students to explore diversity and multiculturalism. I continue to be impressed by our students' interest in diversity issues.

In the Sophomore Year in the Arts of Democracy, class president Preston Burnes '06 and the members of his class council have launched an array of activities from sophomore study breaks and dinners to a foam party at the Palace and a business competition staged in conjunction with the Office of Career Services. Sophomores teamed with eight alumni to introduce the Class of '06 to business etiquette over a dinner at the Edge Café, and more than 70 traveled to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., on a trip organized by the Arts of Democracy program.

Alumni have provided an important resource for these new initiatives. Read McNamara '69 helped develop an alumni industry mentors program and has been on campus running workshops and meeting with students. Bruce Crowley '79 offered an eight-week career course for 100 students.

Many students also devote time outside of class to service in the community, often coordinated through COVE (Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education). Professor Nicole Simpson and her students have been helping area residents compute their income taxes through the VITA (voluntary income tax assistance) program offered in conjunction with the IRS. The COVE helped develop the Green Earth Gang, students who visit second and fourth graders in area schools to teach environmental lessons. And members of Colgate's sophomore class brought the entire sophomore class from Hamilton Central School to campus for a sophomore-to-sophomore introduction to college planning. Meanwhile, students in Outdoor Education organized a powerful Green Summit that fosters environmental action and awareness on campus.

Athletics have always been a feature of life at Colgate, and not only at the varsity level (where, incidentally, Raider teams have competed in the NCAA championship playoffs in the past three seasons in softball, football, and women's basketball). Club sports give our students a chance to compete at the intercollegiate level in sports as wide ranging as skiing, water polo, squash, and equestrian riding. Intramurals and fitness sports are also popular options for Colgate students, as a tour of the busy Wm. Brian Little Fitness Center demonstrates.

Through organizations and activities, our students have a multitude of opportunities to expand their experiences and explore their interests, even as they develop a better sense of themselves and their place in the world. But it is Colgate students' energy and ambition and willingness to engage the world that makes residential education here a success.

The variety and intensity of residential education, and the robust character of our community, remind me every day that Colgate is Division I in residential education, as we strive to be in all we do.

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