WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — As an active living-learning community, the Purdue University Honors College uses a house system to help students connect to each other and the larger community. The houses offer events, activities and camaraderie for all students, as well as way for those students to gain increased comfortability with their surroundings and their professors. In a nod to the Honors College icons of the forge and the torch, the houses are named after forgeable metals.
During the Fall 2018 semester, the Honors College houses provided chances for students to get a feel for the Honors College and Residences, Purdue’s campus, and the Greater Lafayette community.
Dr. Lindsay Weinberg and her students in Palladium House engaged in a service-learning project to benefit the Lafayette Transitional Housing Center. House members were able to prepare and serve dinner to families and housing center members. The students also helped sort supplies. Labor is one of the primary needs of the center due to lack of resources.
“I wanted the students to interact with the community outside of Purdue and general university culture,” said Dr. Weinberg. “This project helped to bring greater awareness of homelessness in the community and also ease some of the stigma that often surrounds it.”
The students embraced the project, showing their willingness not just to engage and interact, but also to consider the causes of the issue. This helps teach students to brainstorm solutions from multiple angles, and in the case of homeless to consider the structural causes as opposed to assuming personal shortcomings.
“There is a stigma that poverty is caused by laziness and a lack of willingness to work,” stated Dr. Weinberg. “Lots of people that move into transitional housing lost their homes during the financial crises or have metal illness. Many are veterans or survivors of domestic abuse.”
It is Dr. Weinberg’s hope that this experience will further encourage students to investigate issues related to poverty and homelessness in Lafayette.
Students in the Platinum House had an opportunity to enjoy an Urban Hike with Honors College professor Jason Ware. Dr. Ware has been performing this activity with students since joining the
Honors College in the fall of 2014 as a way to help students see what the West Lafayette community has to offer outside of the Purdue campus.
“We generally don’t venture too far away,” said Dr. Ware. “We go through a few neighborhoods that offer a little bit of an elevation change and then we end up at Happy Hollow Park.”
As part of the tradition, the hikers have a chance to walk along the creek and then roll down a large hill. After the students have a chance to explore the area, the group returns to campus. The duration of the hike usually lasts from two to three hours.
Dr. Ware has observed the benefits of this expedition throughout his time at with the Honors College. “Once they have had a chance to see the area around campus, the students are more likely to venture out into the community. They will bike, walk, or run to the park for exercise, and even go to Happy Hollow to study when the weather is nice.”
Along with helping students understand how Purdue fits into the greater Lafayette community, this Urban Hike also helps students meet Dr. Ware on a more personal level. “My students start to relate to me as more of a human instead of a faculty member,” commented Dr. Ware. “This allows for more of a connection, which improves learning outcomes and makes them more comfortable on campus, and they are more likely to stop by my office hours either for help with academics or just to chat.”
In Titanium House, students are encouraged to be “local tourists” as they get to know the surrounding area. After touring the near-by Frank Lloyd Wright house earlier in the semester, Dr. Heather Servaty-Seib and Dr. Jason Parry helped their house members find the holiday spirit with a trip to McCord Candies to learn how to make candy canes.
“I enjoy the interdisciplinary nature of a trip like this,” said Dr. Servaty-Seib. “It helps the students see the value of a holistic approach and allows for students of all academic interests to connect with each other.”
While on the tour, Honors College students learn the chemistry involved in properly melting the sugar and why it turns white (air bubbles), the history of McCord Candies and their background in candy canes, and the economics of how the pricing structure is determined.
Dr. Servaty-Seib notices the impact of house events on the students. “Over the course of the semester, I see that as students participate in events they become more open and comfortable. Students also become more engaged with the local community as they get to know the area.”
These types of tours show students a glimpse of what the area has to offer. “I want students to see all there is to do around here,” she notes. “It’s important to know where you are and what the community is about. The more you are involved in the community, the more you can have an impact.”
A sock drive through Silver House allowed students to band together to aid a local housing center. Honors College student Lauren Bellamy, who was
aware that socks are a highly requested item around this time of year, but one of the least donated items, generated the idea. The students were then able to team up with the Lafayette Transitional Housing Center for the drive.
Dr. Katie Jarriel noticed her house rallying around the cause. “Some of our residents were very gung-ho, even organizing trips for their housemates to go to the store,” she said. “A few students even were willing to go to the store to pick up a bunch of socks and just have other students use Venmo to send them money.”
In order to raise awareness, the house had a kick-off party and students created donation boxes for the drive and a marketing plan. Even the timing for the event involved careful planning. “We encompassed Parent and Family Weekend on purpose,” said Dr. Jarriel. “This way, if parents decided to take students to the store for needed items, they also picked up some extra socks.”
From Oct. 23 through Nov. 4, students helped drive awareness for the donations, aiming to have more items donated than the amount of residents. “We have about 175 students in our House,” Dr. Jarriel explained. “We more than doubled that number in just pairs of socks. That didn’t even count other items such as diapers, baby wipes, and underwear.”
Bringing the house together to make the sock drive successful not only yielded a donation to the Lafayette Transitional Housing Center, but it also led to increased understanding of the impact students can have on their community. “It was a good start towards helping students see ways they can aid their local community,” observed Dr. Jarriel. “It also got our house members excited about getting involved.
Writer: Bob Mills, 765-496-0153, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Katie Jarriel, 765-496-6315, email@example.com
Dr. Heather Servaty-Seib, 765-494-3157, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Jason Ware, 765-494-2990, email@example.com
Dr. Lindsay Weinberg, 765-496-6317, firstname.lastname@example.org