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Creating a Community on Campus

Written by Nolan Rehrig, Red & Black Contributor

 

Disclaimer: The following article is a submission from Dr. Berberick's COM-230 Journalism Class.

 

Zachary Neil looks at the panelists (left to right) Amanda Stivason, Julia Hurwitz, Neil Pandit, Tucker DeCasere and Michael Toland at the 2023 Symposium on Democracy Panel about the Progress House. (Courtesy Nolan Rehrig)

MAR. 11, 2023 – The importance of inclusive housing was on display at a student led breakout session during Washington & Jefferson College’s (W&J) Symposium on Democracy, held on Feb. 23.
According to Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create safer college environments for LGBTQ+ students, 446 colleges and universities have gender-inclusive housing. W&J is one of them. Located in Lincoln Hall, there is a residence hall known as the Progress House.
The Progress House’s doors are open to upper-class students with various backgrounds. Students who identify as first generation, LGBTQ+, students of color and students with varying religious backgrounds occupy the space.
"The Progress House is seen by many as W&J’s most successful themed community to date"

“My favorite thing about living in Progress House is how open minded everyone is,” Julia Hurwitz, a W&J senior and resident, said.
“It is a safe environment and great place to live.”
At W&J there are multiple themed communities available for students to live in. The Progress House is seen by many as W&J’s most successful themed community to date, despite it having many of the same qualities as other residence halls.
The Progress House has more name recognition with most students than other themed communities on campus. Tucker DeCasere, a Residential Learning Coordinator at W&J who oversees all themed communities, commented on the active interest and support that the Progress House has on campus.
“People in this community committed to the values in a deeper way,” DeCasere said.
DeCasere’s dream would be to have all upper President’s Row buildings be Progress House themed and the entirety of President’s Row to be prosperous themed communities. She hopes the Progress House can be “an example for other students to create communities.”
One of the most popular programs utilized by Jasmine Dey, Progress House Community Lead, to create community is biweekly family dinners. Dey discussed how residents are selected to cook and then how those residents are tasked with getting the needed ingredients, cooking and serving the meal.
“People in this community committed to the values in a deeper way,” - DeCasere

Michael Toland, a panelist and Progress House resident, credited Dey for their work to connect their residents in a deeper manner.
“As a themed house, it is infinitely better. We did not have a great community with great programs prior,” Toland said.
Dr. Karin Maresh, Associate Professor of Communication Arts, highlighted the “openness” and “confidence” that she felt from the panelist in the room. She credited the confidence to the community the panelists built in the progress house.
As the session ended, panelist Toland’s words left a hush over the audience, leaving them to ponder the importance community plays in college housing.
“Community is progress. There’s no separating the two,” Toland said.
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