Living Communities and “Clusters”

Approximately 20 percent of University-owned student housing is a specialty residence: houses with particular programs that offer variety beyond the traditional, large-hall, dormitory-style living. Specialty floors’ and small houses’ goal to foster cohort identities depends on the construction of a close community, united in social, scholarly, and/or cultural interests, and nurtured through immediate access to faculty advisors and student mentors. Specialty residence floors (such as those for the Core Curriculum, Engineering, Sargent, or Common Ground), or specialty houses (like CGS’s Gilbane House, Hospitality Administration House, Community Service House, or any of the Language Houses) provide an environment that blends the academic with the social, intellectual, and proactive. In particular, the Harriet E. Richards Cooperative House stands as proof of the powerful impact housing can have on the undergraduate experience.(20) In all cases, BU’s specialty residency program allows service, community, and collaboration to become the literal and metaphoric space for the transformative effect of a general/liberal education.

These specialty residences are yet another way for a One BU undergraduate education to open the classroom into the world. Merging specialty housing with the cluster approach could fuse the academic and the communal, leading to a socially responsible action of co-curricular and service work. A means to implement this linked outcome is to enlarge the role of specialty residence housing and floors and/or to establish a pilot “cluster” housing project focused around a community service experience (whether a cause, an organization, a neighborhood, shelter, food drive, health drive, etc.). This pilot project’s focus could be affiliated with specific courses in different programs/colleges at the University to span all course levels and thus support students’ fulfillments of different requirements in their majors. This cluster pilot would move students from classroom knowledge and skills, through the shared experience with that information, to a concrete outcome. Clusters would allow a BU undergraduate education to become more interdisciplinary, collaborative, inventive, rigorous, and meaningful.(21)

Recommendations for Residential Clusters and Community

  • Establish a pilot “cluster” housing project around a community service experience (whether a cause, an organization, a neighborhood, shelter, food drive, health drive, etc.).
  • Affiliate this pilot project’s focus (encourage the same in current specialty on-campus residences) with specific courses at the University, spanning all course levels to support students’ fulfillments of different course requirements in their declared majors.
  • Establish a Smartsearch site for the University’s volunteer and community-oriented opportunities to enhance advisors’ capacity to link the extracurricular and the experiential to existing BU courses.
  • Advance the 2-credit course impact through collaborative assignments associated with the “cluster house,” such as capstone projects that would document student skills (academic and social), maturity, and knowledge at different stages of their BU experience.
  • Emphasize the “cluster house” as a learning site for research methodologies and skills through regular contact with different faculty members via presentations, mentoring, and supervision for student projects.
  • Promote UROP and GUTS as the mentoring and scholarly resources they are and urge students to explore the potential research and training possibilities in this kind of employment.
  • Stress communal spirit and generosity in service work within the actual residency of the “cluster house” (housekeeping, desk duty, and so on) as well as volunteerism outside the residence’s walls.

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20. It was established in 1928 for women undergraduates on financial aid and is the first cooperative college dormitory in the U.S.

21. Consequently, while cluster houses, or cluster “floors,” can be for first-year BU students, they also could be living communities that foster student mentoring between upper- and lowerclassmen.