Expressions of hope launch first residential commons

Last week, with the arrival of the Class of 2019, Colgate launched its first residential commons. Students, faculty, and staff gathered in Memorial Chapel on August 27 to commemorate the moment. Then, they joined in an open-house celebration at their newly renovated upper-campus residence: Curtis and Drake halls.

Faculty Co-director Rebecca Shiner, professor of psychology, greeted students with these words.

Residential Commons Open House

I am so happy to be here with you tonight to celebrate the opening of our commons together. I have been looking forward to being with you here in this place for nearly a year.

I want to say something about why I agreed to serve as the faculty co-director for the first residential commons. I have worked as a professor of psychology at Colgate since 1999. I chose to teach at a place like Colgate, rather than a large research university, because I value community deeply; I went to a small liberal arts college myself, and I knew that these kinds of places are special because of their potential for creating strong and happy communities.

There are better and worse ways for communities and individuals to be happy, and I want only the best kinds of happiness for my students. So, I offered to serve as the faculty co-director with the hope that, together with a team of people, I could help create a community at Colgate that would enable students to be happy.

There is a whole field of research within psychology that investigates what promotes happiness. I believe that, if we go about creating our commons the right way, we will have three of the most key ingredients for happiness. First, the happiest people are the ones who are passionate about whatever they feel called to do in life. These are people who are not simply going through the motions of their day-to-day activities; rather they pour themselves fully into whatever they see as their purpose. In our commons, we will offer you opportunities to more fully engage in the intellectual life of Colgate, to help you figure out what ignites your own curiosity and passion.

Second, the happiest people are the ones who live in cultures that appreciate diversity and inclusion. In fact, the nations that rank highest for welcoming attitudes toward historically marginalized groups are among the happiest. We hope that our commons will be a place where everyone is valued and where everyone has a place.

Third and most important, the happiest people are the ones who have vibrant, committed relationships with people they care about. I cannot emphasize enough how critical this is; it is nearly impossible to be happy without these caring relationships. The most satisfied individuals have people they care for and who care about them. This is the greatest strength of our commons — we are building a community where you will grow lasting relationships with the people in your class year, with students in other class years, with the staff who work with you, and with your professors.

This is my hope for you: that we will work to build the happiest kind of community together.