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Students from last year's Culture, Brain and Development Community say the arrangement sparked organic conversations, friendships, and project collaborations
What happens when a dozen Hampshire students with a shared academic interest dorm together on the same floor for a year? One of Hampshire’s programs on intentional living, the Living and Learning Community (LLC), has been offering first-year students this residence option for the past three years.
A Living and Learning Community provides incoming students the opportunity to share housing for a year with others who are following a similar course of study. The Culture, Brain, and Development (CBD) program, for example, launched a Living and Learning Community in fall 2014.
The CBD community is now supporting its second class of students. CBD is a campus-wide program of curriculum, conferences, events, grant funding for students and faculty, and now a Living and Learning Community, with the goal of advancing scholarship in the areas and intersections of culture, mind/brain, and human growth and development. It spans the disciplines of biology, anthropology, cognitive science, neuroscience, physiology, philosophy, psychology, and more.
CBD’s Living and Learning Community members opt to live together on the same hall and attend workshops and group activities built around the theme of bodies, brains, and culture. Among last year’s activities were “Corsets vs. Brains,” a workshop on Victorian cultural attitudes; a lab on sheep brains and behavior connections; and a presentation on stress and resilience by a Hampshire alum. In the program’s second semester, students pursued a group independent project: they arranged an extensive sleep study documenting everyone in their community.
Amy Dryansky, assistant director of the CBD program, sees the community and its workshops as a means of introducing first-year students to the wide range of possibilities Hampshire affords them. “The theme of ‘bodies, brains, and culture’ is pretty broad,” she says. “Through the workshops, students in that community really get a sense of all they can do in our program.”
Dryansky and CBD Director Pamela Stone meet with the students as a group every other week and moderate open discussions about classes, coursework, and first-year experiences. They strive to create an inclusive atmosphere in which students can feel supported, share experiences, and trade information and advice.
Second-year student Libby Parker-Simkin, studying neuroscience and math modeling, says the shared interests of community residents made it easier for them to become friends. “It definitely made it easier to start a conversation, to start to get to know people,” she says. "Right off the bat you have that common interest.“
Adds Brooke Fitzgerald, who is studying applied math and statistical analysis, “It was unique to have a group of people you knew were interested in these dynamic topics of culture, brain, and development. When I went into other people’s halls, they didn’t tend to have that same sort of community.”
Garrison Greenleaf and Rainer Bathum Nathe, who lived in the CBD Living and Learning Community their first year, began a close friendship that continues in their second year. Greenleaf, who is studying technology and human behavior, plans to partner on an academic project with Bathum Nathe, who is studying mental diseases and disorders. The two plan to coordinate with Greenleaf’s father, a Hampshire alum, on a book about the medical applications of virtual reality.
“Garrison really has more of the large-scale idea and I’m more mechanistically and biologically inclined. I think we play off each other really well,” says Bathum Nathe. “I can inform him how neuro-mechanistic stuff works and he has a larger study of media technology. We can learn from each other in a really productive way. The community really facilitated that,” he says.
Adds Greenleaf, “I feel very fortunate for having that kind of opportunity.”
Hampshire offers Living and Learning Communities organized around a number of areas of study, such as Community Engagement for Social Change, Environmental Justice and Sustainability, Looking/Reading/Writing, Social Justice, and Wellness.
For more information on the various communities including how to apply, visit the Living and Learning Communities page. For more information on the CBD, visit the Culture, Brain, and Development page.