Creating a supportive and inclusive community in a residence hall is key to making students feel welcome and at home on their residence floors. For the past two years, while I’ve been at Eastern, I’ve enjoyed halls like these, and it led me to wonder what exactly builds community in a hall.
Kea-Guffin Residence Hall is known for its friendly, outgoing community, so I spoke with two residents of Kea, Jared Halsey and Tom Hirsch. Halsey and Hirsch live in one of the most connected, welcoming floors that I have seen.
When I visited, I noticed how most of the dorm doors were open, and students were in and out of each other’s rooms, visiting and talking with each other. Everyone seemed to know each other and had some level of friendship with one another, even if it was a simple “hello” and smile while walking through the halls.
I asked Halsey and Hirsch, “do you think most people on your floor feel welcome and included?” Most of the students interact with one another and build friendships, but I was curious to know how they would reach out to a student who didn’t feel included. “There’s a guy on our floor that always keeps his door open. We’re always hanging out in there, and we’re very welcoming to people who want to come in, but it is up to them to take the initiative.
If people want to come in and play videogames with us, we’re 100 percent okay with that,” Hirsch stated. Halsey went on to explain that they always give an invitation for people to hang out with them; they are always happy to include more people in their hangouts and videogame playing.
Building a community may take a few students reaching out to those who don’t feel as connected on the floor, but it also requires that the other party accepts the offer and makes an effort to connect with students.
Another critical part of a harmonious community is understanding and respecting the varying beliefs and worldviews of the diverse students. “We have a lot of different views and opinions, but we respect each other’s beliefs and don’t dwell on our differences. But, we have a lot of similar interests, too.
Most of us play videogames, think about deep questions and share a similar sense of humor,” Halsey stated. It seems that it is important to acknowledge and learn about the different perspectives that each student brings to the floor, but also find common interests to connect over.
Halsey and Hirsch also said that their RA, El-Fatih Chase, contributes greatly to their community’s atmosphere by making an effort to build a connection with each resident.
Kea-Guffin’s Resident Director, Theresa Noye, said a way to build community within the hall is having “intentional RAs who are present on their floor and in the building.” The RA staff is an integral part of making the community what it is. They are a great resource to the other students on the hall and set an example for how to reach out to students who may not feel welcome.
One way Noye recommends RAs and students to reach out to others who may feel left out is to offer invitations to everyone. Noye says, “invite them to events, coffee, conversations and hangouts.” An invitation might encourage a less involved student to get more involved with the community and people on their hall. Noye, the RA Staff and students, such as Halsey and Hirsch, utilize these techniques to build the welcoming environment of Kea-Guffin. I asked Noye, “what makes Kea-Guffin special?” She replied, “Open doors, good conversations and fun times.”