Most GW students long-ago trashed the idea of finding a townhouse near campus at a reasonable price, but for about 50 students, D.C. real estate will not be a problem. These students will take part in one of eight self-created programs while living in the Community Living and Learning Center’s Scholars Village townhouses on F Street.
In the most competitive year since the Scholars Village program began in 2000, more than forty groups vied for the spots in the spacious townhouses, which include full kitchens, washers and dryers and their own backyards. Director for Students in Transition Tara Woolfson and Community Director for Scholars Village Kevin Wade, who are in charge of the living and learning community program, both said advertising, word of mouth and general increase in living and learning communities across campus contributed to the increase in applications.
The two-part application process consisted of a two-page application and a 10-minute presentation to CLLC staff and students. Each community also chose a faculty adviser.
Wade said decisions this year were tough because of the quantity and quality of applications. He said the groups were chosen not on the topics they had proposed, but because they had solid schedules and ideas.
Although some students who lived in the Village last year said they did not do much work or follow through with their projects as promised, CLLC officials said this year’s “rigorous” application and selection process should ensure the most successful year yet.
CLLC officials said they work with community members and faculty advisers to ensure that the curriculum is followed and that they expect more out of the students because they are upperclassmen.
Senior Stephanie Gottschalk, member of the Cinematic Culture Community, said CLLC wasn’t specific as to whether they would be monitoring programs but that her group wanted to be as involved in the project as “full-time, working students” can be.
“(But CLLC) made it clear that they were interested in our programs and would be available for any support that we would need,” Gottschalk said.
Almost all students living in the Village this year said the prospect of living in a townhouse was definitely part of the reason they applied, and all said they are excited to start their programs and get other GW students involved with their activities.
Finding the Modern Man
Senior Philip Longo said his community’s main goals are to diminish stereotypes about men and show GW students that men can be positive role models.
“I resent that the masculine ideal that is celebrated in the media is that men like to watch football, drink beer, say stupid things and never be serious,” Longo said.
In addition to the man’s role in the media, the community plans to look at a different male issue or societal role each month. The group will further examine the issue by reading a book, watching a movie, holding an open forum discussion for all interested students and participating in an activity related to the issue.
Forums will include whether or not clothes “make the man;” and the role of “the infamous frat,” and its purpose in today’s society.
Longo noted that with both homosexuals and heterosexuals living in the house this year, he hopes to “break down this idea that gay men and heterosexual men cannot live together or be friends.”
Some of the community’s ideas stemmed from the program at Mount Vernon.
Longo said he and his housemates realized there was no counterpart to the (Women’s Leadership) programs that “helped empower and understand college men.”
The group based its Village around the idea that masculinity is in a “state of confusion” in today’s world, where “chivalry and courtliness (are) disappearing and new ideas, such as homosexual lifestyles and a long overdue feminine empowerment (are) emerging,” according to the group’s proposal.
Cinematic Culture Community
Six international affairs majors who love films will combine their passions this year into a Living and Learning Community.
The women will use film to look at various issues cross-culturally and compare different countries’ perspectives. One idea the women had is to look at World War II movies from France and Germany and see how the different styles show each country’s view of the war.
“Cinema is an important cultural vehicle and offers the chance for us to view the same movies as those within a certain culture and perhaps gain a broader perspective,” Gottschalk said.
The community plans to work with the Silver Screen Living and Learning Community. Silver Screen puts on film festivals, provides speakers and workshops and gives tickets to area premieres.
Gottschalk also said she hopes the group will volunteer or “participate in some way” with Filmfest D.C., an annual week-long festival with theater locations around the city. Last year two films, “The Cat’s Meow” and “The Ballad of Bering Strait,” were screened at GW’s Lisner Auditorium.
Gottschalk said the group’s classroom and extracurricular experience helped the women to decide on their idea.
They have taken classes like Russian Cinema and Socio-Cultural Anthropology, and are involved in campus activities such as National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Circle K International, The French Club and The Russian Club.
Gottschalk said the community hopes to build on previous knowledge and “enhance our studies and cultural understanding in an enjoyable extracurricular activity.”
She also noted the group’s ideas were presented to CLLC in a power point presentation, complete with “popcorn as a visual aid.”
Home for the Holidays
Living in a house together is a “a dream come true” for these six best friends.
The six juniors, who “wanted to live together for every reason,” said despite their hard work and interesting ideas, most people doubted their idea at first.
“We were used to conversations that went ‘What is your program?’ and us (saying) ‘holidays,'” McAlvanah and West wrote in an e-mail. “And with this they would smile and nod sympathetically thinking, ‘yeah, they are going to be real hard to beat (to get to live a townhouse).”
Doubts by fellow applicants made the women work even harder to impress CLLC staffers at their presentation.
After handing out candy and cards in celebration of Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day, the women showed staffers their forty-page binder of information about different holidays and their plans for the year, and explained why the topic is important to them as well as the entire GW community.
The community plans to take a “road trip” to either Colonial Williamsburg’s Halloween Extravaganza or New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The members also plan to attend a fashion show during Hispanic Heritage month and attend a Bob Marley Day Festival in Chinatown.
“We also want to make some of these celebrations known to GW students by working with (other) student organizations,” McAlvanah and West wrote. “We are sort of like campus-wide cultural event planners.”
Residents said a part of the holiday spirit is being home for the holidays. Even though students are away at school during most holidays, they begin to form a small family of friends at GW, especially as freshmen.
“We wish that feeling of family could carry through other years (besides freshman year) as you leave your comfortable freshmen floors,” McAlvanah and West wrote. “This year we are trying to get that feeling back. We even have the one bathroom deal again.”
The Israel Peace Project
These men know “no group of college students can create a treaty that will erase centuries of violence or ease the tensions in the Middle East,” sophomore Alex Berger said. “(But) we can try to influence the next generation of peacemakers.”
Through more than one seminar series and open forum discussionsamong other programs, the community will try to “raise awareness among our peers and bring together a group of students who all stand with Israel and advocate an eventual peaceful resolution,” Berger said.
Two sets of seminars, The Peace and The Political, are in the works for the fall.
The Peace series will feature representatives from various organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Hillel International. These speakers will discuss the history of Israel and offer insight into the current situation.
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) is set to speak Sept. 19 in the Marvin Center.
The event is open to all students and is being co-sponsored by the College Democrats.
In addition to being a Living and Learning Community, The Israel Peace Project is a student organization with about a dozen additional members not living in the house.
Although getting non-community members involved is key for the Village, residents said they are excited to gain knowledge from various speakers and programs.
“I actually feel I’m not educated enough when it comes to the entire situation going on in Israel, so I thought this would give me a greater knowledge about a topic I’m really interested in,” sophomore Brian Golding said.
Golding said he also plans to document some of the events the house puts on this year via digital camera.
A diverse crew, the house consists of 11 Jews, three Evangelical Christians, one Cuban and one Polish non-Jew.
Berger noted that “many students from diverse backgrounds stand with Israel,” and that all are encouraged to attend the community’s events “provided they are not disruptive.”
The women of the Womenwork community asked themselves “how is it that there are women today who have amazing careers, families and run a house as well?”
As these four seniors approach graduation this spring, they decided they needed to answer this question as quickly as possible.
With majors and interests ranging from domestic politics and public health to anthropology and economics, the community members also “love to decorate and be domestic,” Melissa Ilg said. She also said the group “wants to be successful in both (career and domestic affairs).”
Ilg said the group’s main focus will be hosting dinner parties, where different women in the community will be invited to share their experiences about balancing their busy lives.
“Because domesticity is the other half of the project, decorating and keeping our home open for entertaining is a must,” Ilg noted.
The community also plans to support women’s sporting and cultural events at GW by attending them, work with the Women’s Studies department, and possibly do a joint activity with another Scholars Village community, Finding the Modern Man.
Civic Leadership through Community Service
After seniors Shannon Tobin and Becky Pietsch walked out of Honey Nashman’s Human Service class last year, they knew they had to somehow “make a difference” in the world around them.
The two friends said they developed their community around this premise and soon found four others who are as committed to the cause as they are.
With a 17-page presentation that included proposed events for the fall semester and community involvement, the women were ready to go.
Tobin noted how competitive the program was this year.
Tobin said the D.C. community’s diverse makeup was a factor in the decision to pursue this Village.
“D.C. is the home to the great leaders of America yet it is also the home of the homeless,” Tobin said. “These men and women come from all ethnic backgrounds with children of their own. They struggle to survive.”
Tobin also said elderly persons, low-income residents and those infected by the HIV virus or AIDS also need help.
To stay active in the D.C. community, housemates have committed themselves to collectively completing 20 hours of community service per week.
Although Tobin said CLLC said the progress of the house will not be monitored because the students are upperclassmen, “we definitely plan on becoming engaged in our cause.”
Each member of the house will choose a service agency to work with, and attend at least one congressional hearing per month. The community also plans to hold monthly “reflection dinners” to discuss their experiences with these organizations.
Tobin said she hopes other GW students will get as excited about the project as the housemates are.
“Help us help them,” Tobin said.
A group of writers, filmmakers and musicians were looking for “an outlet for students interested in film on campus,” junior Jonathan Reiling said of his community members.
He said GW lacks opportunities to get involved with film and audio projects outside class, so “we decided to make some (opportunities for ourselves).”
The group showed CLLC its interest in the movie industry from the start by making a film for its presentation to CLLC.
But even after making the movie, the housemates were not convinced they had gotten into the program.
“We were all very worried,” Reiling said. “Initially, we did not expect that
so many kids would apply, simply because the previous year very few had.”
CLLC officials reported that about 20 more groups applied this year than last year.
Reiling said the men consider themselves “lucky” for being accepted.
Reiling said his Village does not solely cater to the needs of its community members. He said he wants to get all who are interested in film on GW’s campus involved.
The community members contacted electronic media students last semester and this summer through the major’s listserv, and they have already received some “good” responses, Reiling said. He also said the men know and work with some electronic media faculty and staff, “so that’s always a good way to get our messages out.”
The housemates are currently working on a Web site to showcase student films, and said they would like to have a student film festival second semester.
Reiling said he is looking forward to learning “how to make awesome films” this year and “get(ting) kids involved.”
The Spiritual Awakenings community wants to combat religious prejudice on GW’s campus by educating and getting students involved with religions other than their own.
Sophomore Abbey Curran said she wants everyone at GW “who feels that they can in any way give to or benefit from our Living and Learning
Community to know that our community is out here and waiting to hear from them.”
Activities include celebrating the Hindu holiday Jain Murthi Prathistapra in September, attending a lecture at the Zen Buddhist Center of Washington in October, and celebrating Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, at Hillel on campus and visiting the Holocaust museum in November.
Each month the residents will study a religion that is unfamiliar to at least one of the housemates. The women’s religions range from Judaism to Christianity to Sikhism.
Their program also includes learning other aspects of spirituality like meditation and New Age practices.
Curran said she is excited for the year to begin, and she hopes to “personally question, explore, experience and challenge spiritual beliefs.”