Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

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February 24, 2024

Two New Focused Interest Houses for 2016

The new term is bringing with it two new residential options for Augustana upperclassmen.
In addition to the already existing Focused Interest TLA houses, this year will see the addition of an International House and an Interfaith Understanding House.
The International House is a multi-department endeavor that has been in the works since last year, as a joint project of the Offices of Residential Life, International Student Life, and the World Language department. Danny Kim, assistant director from the Office of International Student Life, is one of the heads of the project.
“The purpose of the program is to…break down different barriers between different groups of people [and] come to a better understanding of each cultural heritage that is represented in the house,” Kim said. This purpose includes building relationships between International and National students by splitting the occupants, roughly half International and half National. Weekly programs will also reinforce this relationship building, such as “having dinner together or going to an event on campus together.”
The occupants of the house will all go through a course together focusing on cultural exchanges, taught by  Dr. Chadia Chambers-Samadi of the World Languages department.
“I think the theme this year surrounds food,” Kim said. “They’re going to be talking about food etiquette around the world…what do you say when a person offers you their cultural food and you really don’t like what they’re offering you?”
Other than the barrier breaking and living-learning experience, Kim shared one other important purpose that the house will serve.
“[International students] over major breaks…stay here on campus. Often times the cafeteria’s is closed and there’s no place for them to really hang out or cook.” In response to this issue, the first floor of the house will stay open, as a place for the International students still on campus to access what they need to cook their own food and hang out.
The application process has passed for the house, and there will be 10 students living there this term. Danny Kim, professor Gillian Lederman, and Dr. Chadia Chambers-Samadi will be overseeing the house.
Another addition to the Focused Interest communities is the Interfaith Understanding House. This house will be overseen by Pastor Kristen Glass Perez, Chaplain and Director of Vocational Exploration.
“In the case of the Interfaith Understanding House people of various religious or non-religious backgrounds are invited to be in community with one another. This, in turn, helps the larger Augustana community as we work towards living out community principles.” Pastor Perez said in an e-mail. “When we learn about one another and where we come from and what traditions shape us, we show that in the ‘real world’ we don’t have to be divided because of religious difference. Instead, we are friends because we know someone because we cooked with them and shared a living room with them.”
The application that was sent out to all TLA-eligible students earlier this year outlines some of the missions of the house. These include “meetings that range from resident-led discussions to community building activities”, ” a commitment to the creation of a safe living space to explore and discuss pertinent topics”, and “a commitment to honor the food preparation and dining practices of various religious communities”. Along with in-house activities, Pastor Perez hopes that the house will put on one campus wide event each term.
This year the Interfaith Understanding House will have four student residents, though is set to increase if interest builds.
In an e-mail, Chris Beyer, Director of Residential Life, outlined the other new experiences offered. Andreen Hall hosts the “Residential Learning Experience” this year, where first year students are learning and living together, taking a social ethics class with an emphasis on service. Swanson Hall is hosting the first “Faculty in Residence” program, with Dr. Kathy Jakielski there to help provide an extra layer of academic support for second year students.
“Our goal with all these programs,” said Beyer, “is to integrate students academic and residential experiences.”
There may be more additions in the near future, as Beyer mentions: “The idea of offering a ‘Gender Justice’ house originated in one of the sustained dialogue groups last year…Dr. Margaret France is taking the lead there, but we are very early in the planning.” If enough student interest is shown to fill the Gender Justice House, there is a hope to offer it next year in the fall of 2017.
 
 

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Two New Focused Interest Houses for 2016