What does the word community mean to you? Does it conjure frustrations of a useless buzzword? When I first came to Tech I put little stock in ideas and ideals like being part of a strong community. I was here for school, pure and simple academics.
Tech was the school for me because classes were full of hard, concrete material that could be proven and derived analytically. Community was a nice word and I thought I might have some extra time for it but what I really wanted was classes. Then I got to Tech.
Freshmen year turned out to be one of the most pivotal times in my life. I lived on a hall with great guys and we generally raised a ruckus, I joined a campus organization and got to know lots of new people and got involved with my hall council.
I threw myself into school, mostly socially, and grew bonds with many people and groups. Without realizing it I had built a strong community that helped me through an academic wake up call.
Even people that claim to not need or even have a community crave that connection with others around them. Without even realizing it we all naturally integrate into a community.
Community is a hard concept to grasp but avoid the temptation to dismiss the importance of it because of its complexity. Seeing familiar faces at social events hosted by your fraternity, working on a move in salsa club with a friend or saying hi to your neighbors as you walk down the hallway are all examples of community.
Some people find it within a Greek organization, some in a club or organization, and some find within their residence hall. Everyone wants to feel like they belong to something larger and are accepted into a group to build lasting relationships.
One of the best examples of community I’ve seen at Tech is the fourth floor of Harris. Each member of the floor brings something unique but they bond as a group.
Activities aren’t planned but just evolve as if one big family shared the top floor in one of the oldest buildings on campus.
There is always a story to tell from the last weekend, mostly everyone has a nickname and they can count on each other to help during hard times. The experiences on the fourth floor define their time at tech, as one resident put it, “I live on campus because of my community”.
There are several factors that contribute to a functioning community. The demographics of the students in a hall, the architectural layout of a building, the Reslife staff and the officers in a hall council all contribute toward the success of a tight knit community. In FE buildings the difference of having auto closing doors vs. open doors effects the feel of a building more than you would guess.
The careful manipulation of some factors can really encourage a community to form. That is one challenge that RA’s, PL’s and RHA hall council officers face on a daily basis.
RHA works to create a welcoming environment to encourage the creation of community within the residence halls. Most people know RHA or Hall Councils as a great way to get free food during finals week but there is something bigger going on: a chance to feel the pain together with others you know are going through the exact same thing creates bonds that last longer than finals week. That interaction and yes, community building, is what makes living on campus something special and not just a place to sleep.
I encourage you to think about the communities you are involved with. After a bad test can you go to someone and talk about it? Make sure you are not braving Tech alone, it takes the support of your peers.
If you aren’t a part of a community, join one. Opportunities are boundless with over 400 organizations or groups of friends on campus. They do take a little time and effort just like any relationship, but you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.
Be intentional with your efforts and know the dynamics of a community you are thinking about joining. It could be the most important decision you have at Tech.