On the first and second floors of Mitchell Hall, what could be the world’s tiniest nation held a state dinner Thursday. It was the second formal dinner held by the residents of the Republic of Veena, and the ministers of protocol, central intelligence, defense and oil all were in attendance.
The nation’s population – mostly freshman residents – forged deep friendships at the beginning of the year, forming bonds with each other and community facilitator Veena Raj. They declared themselves a people united under one government – complete with a flag and national anthem – earlier this semester.
“We said to Veena `You are so great you should have a country named after you,’ ” said John Procter, the republic’s minister of central intelligence.
The program, which began as a casual bond between neighbors, recently won the University residence hall program award. The republic also took first place a few weeks ago at the Central Atlantic Affiliation of College and University Residence Halls.
“The reason (the award) was bestowed upon us is because it is so original and it is such a bizarre occurrence,” said Marco Krstic, the republic’s minister of defense.
The republic has formed an extensive cabinet consisting of ministers of protocol, defense, central intelligence and oil, as well as a secretary of state. A prime minister leads the group and answers to Empress Veena.
Procter said the country is a combination of styles of governments. All residents – or citizens – have a voice in the governing process, but power still rests in the hands of the empress.
Procter added in jest, “(Empress Veena) does hold sovereign reign over our people.”
Justin Lavella, president of the Residence Hall Association, said the republic serves as a model of the spirit the Community Living and Learning Center promote in the halls.
“The spirit (of the program) is what should serve as a model. It’s what CLLC has been trying to push for – a community atmosphere,” Lavella said at the state dinner in the Strong Hall lounge.
Lilly Needleman, the co-chief of protocol for the republic, said she believes the program has helped her meet more people in her residence hall.
“It’s a great way to bring our whole floor together,” Needleman said. “Before the (republic), I only knew a few people on the floor; now I know everyone.”
“The residents of the Republic of Veena are forming amazing friendships and they are tapping into their sense of humor and intelligence,” said Dean of Students Linda Donnels, who bestowed the empress with a book of knowledge and rubies from the empire of GW at the dinner.
Raj said she attributes the success of the program to the residents.
“I guess honestly, I’ve lucked out,” Raj said. “You come into this CF job and hear all these scary stories, but these are a great group of kids and they show nothing but love to me. It’s all them. I’m just their leader.”
She said the success of Thursday’s dinner was largely based on the effort of two ambassadors of the republic, Claudia Garcia and Krista-Ann Petumenos.
Raj said she is confident the program will always be a part of the students’ lives, even after the year is over.
“It’s going to be hard in May,” Veena said. “But even after we all leave, we’ll still have a special part of this program that we’ll carry with us.”