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Campus Currents

Devine Hall residentsPhoto by Gary Samson

Kindred Spirits

No one eats a pizza alone on the second floor of Devine Hall. So when Anna Barrieau, a freshman from Derry, N.H., needs something to sustain her while working late on a term paper, she orders the extra large with everything. She knows that when it arrives, she'll have plenty of company. She can count on her roommate, Fan Su '02, from China, and probably Gaelle Gourgues '03, who grew up in Haiti and lives down the hall, and maybe Shelley Ann Richmond '01 from Brooklyn, N.Y.

This floor of Devine is like a mini United Nations. All 56 residents specifically requested to live on the Common Purposes floor so they could live with people who are not like themselves. One resident is from Hong Kong, another from Croatia, and a third from California. African American students from New York City live next door to students from rural New Hampshire. There are men and women on the Common Purposes floor, gay students and straight students, representatives of many nations, religions and cultures. Yet, in spite of all the differences, or maybe because of them, "It's like an extended family," Barrieau says. "As a freshman, I found it very welcoming. It's been fun learning about other people."

Resident assistant Andy Padial-Houston, who is Latino, agrees. "Everyone on the floor is committed to the theme of diversity," he says. "Students here are embracing and learning from each other."

Perhaps because all of the residents are so interested in other people, they have a strong sense of community. "This is paradise for an RA," Padial-Houston says. "Other RAs are jealous. I get the biggest turnout for the weekly social. (As an RA) every week I'm asked if there were any conflicts, and every week the answer is no. In this dorm, doors are always open, and people are doing things together. This is a pretty jumping place on weekends."

Sometimes, the students are literally jumping, say at the salsa dance lessons before the Latin dance party. Other weekly social activities have included a red egg party for Chinese New Year, the Black Student Union's fashion show and a discussion about minorities and body image.

Students first proposed a multicultural living space in 1999, and the 2000-2001 school year was the first time the university had offered a Common Purposes floor. Next fall, the program will expand to the first floors of Devine and nearby Randall Hall.

"I thought Derry was the center of the universe, then I came here," Barrieau observes. "The best thing, especially for a freshman, is that everyone is so open and welcoming. It's almost like a home away from home. No one ever feels left out."

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