Allen Hall offers unique in-residence guest program

By Arielle Kramer

Established in 1971, Allen Hall and its living-learning community “Unit One” aim to provide a special, homey feeling that other residence halls may not have, said Laura Haber, academic and program director for Allen Hall.

An aspect of the hall that particularly contributes to the “homey” feeling is the guest-in-residence program. Each semester, a guest comes to Allen Hall and lives with the residents for a week. Guests include anyone who has made an impact on their community with a successful career; they have ranged from technologists to musicians to architects to sex educators. The guests have the opportunities to give speeches to the residents and get to know them on a more personal level.

Lisa Wade, a guest-in-residence that came in 2015, explained her experience at Allen. She said her experience of living in the dorm with the students was far more fulfilling than her traditional routine of arriving at a venue, giving a speech and leaving.

“Because I got to know the students a little bit, I got to see them interact with one another,” Wade said. “So it was kind of interesting to see what students at your school were like, what kind of things they were interested in. I felt the feeling that I got a pretty specific slice of students at your school at that particular dorm.”

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She even claimed that this program was more of a fun activity as opposed to a business trip.

“In the case of this program, it was more fun and less of a hassle, actually because I got to stay for a while and settle in and give many talks.”

Wade, who received a Master’s in human sexuality from New York University and a Ph.D. in sociology, started a small online project regarding human sexuality which in turn become a small public speaking career. She gives a wide range of talks about things that relate to sexuality to many different populations, one of which includes college-aged students.

Wade and other guest-in-residents were able to get acquainted with the students on a more one-on-one basis through “tea time,” in which individuals of the residence hall could informally chat with their guest to learn more about them and establish a relationship.

“We had a tea each evening. It went for an hour or two or whenever it wound down. People would come and hang out and we would talk about stuff,” Wade said.

Nancy Guo, a junior in Engineering, took advantage of this special guest-in-residence program. During her time in Allen, she attended the activities with Kate Bornstein, a transgender woman. The program opened up Duos’ mind and exposed her to things she was previously unaware of.

“She was just talking about her experiences of her life story. It was about expanding my view on things, and expanding my understanding of what’s happening, and being aware of LGBTQ issues,” Guo said. “Because coming into college I didn’t really know that much about sexual violence and that kind of stuff and also about the LGBTQ movement.”

In addition to learning new topics from the guests living-in, residents also have the opportunity to take classes in the building that count for credit hours. They are smaller, seminar-like classes that are more interactive and hands-on than courses that may be held in a classroom.

Guo, who lived in Allen her freshman year, said she took advantage of these opportunities.

“We could just go downstairs and go in our pajamas or in case you’re late so it’s convenient in times too,” Guo explained. “(Also) since there are so many classrooms I don’t have to worry about going out to the library and stuff when there are so many study spaces in Allen.”

Aside from academia, special programs are also a large part of the living learning community. Students can partake in music lessons, one of 20 student groups, open mic performances, the college radio station, volunteer opportunities, ceramic workshops, a rec room and even a camping trip.

Kirsten Ruby, the associate director of Housing for Communications and Marketing, said she has heard positive feedback from many students about the residence hall.

“Studies have shown that when students feel connected to their community and feel connected to the University, they are more likely to succeed in college,” Ruby said.

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