New Juniatian - Spring 2017

Creating or Destroying an International Community?

By Kevin Vanegas-Correa

Juniata College underwent a transition from separate off-campus housing to the Global Village in Tussey Hall during 2016. The transition caused brief uproar from several students and faculty members.

Students and faculty felt attached to past structures like La Casa Hispánica, Le Village Français, Haus Wanderlust, and the Chinese Village. They felt that something had been taken away instead of gaining a new improvement.

Senior Henry Lush, who lived in La Casa Hispánica in 2014, stated it was one of the best experiences he had at Juniata College. Seniors Amber Castro, Anvy Tran, and Tristan Wilson, who lived with Lush in 2014 and all currently share a house together, shared similar sentiments. They achieved the required goals of La Casa Hispánica, but had different views on the immersion of their experience.

One appealing aspect was living off-campus. Bradley Murphy, senior and past resident of the Chinese Village, stated his initial thoughts on living off-campus: “[It was] pretty nice…pretending you were an adult and living in your own place…you can cook for yourself with your kitchen…I liked it.”

If given the choice to return to the residence halls, almost all past residents declined. “…It’s a prison cell,” added Wilson, “…if you want to be your own independent person, [living off-campus is] much better for your lifestyle.”

“Our resident halls need to be modernized and what happens in the resident halls needs to be modernized,” said Michael Henderson, professor of French and head of the World Languages and Culture Department. “Juniata is, I think, very carefully, intentionally, and rightfully rethinking what it means to be residential,” said Henderson.

In 2013, a shift in favor of the Global Village occurred with the new administration headed by President James Troha. Troha stated that “students were not going to convince [him] that having five people in a house, for a global experience, was going to be more beneficial than a residence hall with potentially 100 other students.” Troha admits he understands the students’ love for living off-campus, but felt the need to expand the Global Village to the rest of the community.”

Kati Csoman, the dean of international education, held a forum in the spring of 2016 to discuss the transition. The forum allowed students to air grievances and lessen the tension between the administration and students.

Tensions also rose between the faculty and the administration due to the shift and proposed new areas of East or Tussey and Terrace Halls (TNT). Finally, the faculty agreed with TNT as the final location of the transition. In the summer of 2016, a $500,000 renovation occurred to the TNT lounge, transforming it into the Global Commons. This new space would allow residents to meet the objectives of the Global Village with ease.

Spanish Professor Holly Hayer stated the objectives, while slightly different for each language house, are to “[interact] comfortably and effectively in the target language with other members of the community, …describe and analyze cultural differences and similarities, [establish] attitudes toward food, privacy, time, relationships with family and friends, [and] demonstrate appropriate extra linguistic behaviors when communicating with native speakers of the target language.”

In the fall of 2016, the language houses and the Intercultural Floor in Terrace Hall were placed in the first two floors of Tussey Hall. “Our strategic plan says that we will grow, nurture, and support inclusive engaged communities, stated Csoman, “So that includes a student residential experience. We want to foster diversity and we want to foster internationalization.”

The renovation was eventually met with universal praise, but would this connect future students to the Global Village? Current seniors who lived in the former language houses were asked this exact question. They stated similar reasons for entering the program: to improve their language skills, make new friends, live off-campus, and prepare for study abroad. However, the rules in the old houses were not always reinforced.

“None of us spoke Spanish together,” stated Wilson, who would add that it was only done during dinners or when greeting each other. Wilson defended his reasoning by saying, “[Juniata could] get a coordinator that’s a real stickler, and can chastise you for not speaking in Spanish, but then nobody would want to live there.” While true and still an issue in the current Global Village, Castro focused on the cultural aspect of her experience: “We all had a love for latin culture and we all shared that together,” she stated.

Seniors Cameron Shultz and Calvin Venesky, who lived in Haus Wanderlust in 2014, shared similar views. “Most of the time we spoke English and we were all at different levels at speaking German,” said Shultz, who found it difficult to speak to the upperclassmen of the house. “Apathy is really contagious and if other people aren’t putting in the effort, people are going to give up eventually,” said Venesky.

The new location aims to improve upon living and learning communities and increase the students’ understanding of other cultures in a way that the classroom cannot provide. “We want students to take away a little more savviness, or just awareness or sensitivity of the culture they’re studying,” stated Professor of German, Judith Benz. “Many of the things we teach you in the classroom may be better learned in your living environment, like learning empathy,” Professor Henderson added.

Spanish Professors Henry Thurston-Griswold and Amy Frazier-Yoder stated that the past activities of La Casa Hispánica and the current Rincon Hispánico have done a great job of representing Hispanic culture. Chinese Professor Jingxia Yang expressed similar sentiments in the activities performed by the Chinese Village and is glad to see the interactions with the greater community.

To be more inclusive, the French Department changed the title of “Le Village Français” to “Le Village Francophone”. Haus Wanderlust will also waive the entry requirement of prior German knowledge for future students who seek to experience German culture. “Of course I’m concerned about the growth of German House, but overall I want the Global Village to prosper,” added Professor Benz.

House coordinators Anne-Marcelle and Megha Arora stated that living in the Global Village has been “rewarding” and they hope to have the community participate in the upcoming activities. They have both expressed great support of the current space for the Global Village and share the view of the administration and faculty.

The Global Village plans to pursue the goals aspired by past and current members of Juniata College to enlighten the community and various cultures of the world. “The Global Village is just a name,” stated Murphy, “[It] doesn’t really mean much unless you make it mean something.”

Photo credit: Sophie Bell

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