Like the start of every other new school year, this one commenced with the usual conversational questions about summer gossip, new classes and housing. To my surprise, however, very few people knew exactly what I meant when I spoke of my residence in the Mosaic House. Many thought it was specialty housing in the Randolph Complex or an off-campus residence facility. And those who had heard about it could not quite put their finger on what it actually was.
The Mosaic House, located on the second floor of Jamestown North, is specialty housing sponsored by the women’s studies department. This is the house’s third year at the College of William and Mary and is coordinated by professor Christy Burns, director of the department. Rising sophomores, juniors and seniors are selected for the following year through an application process in early February. According to the women’s studies department website, residents are expected to “organize their own events — film series, speakers, diversity workshops, cultural fairs — and are involved in on-going intellectual exchange about culture, diversity, interracial community and alternative lifestyles.”
It effectively combines the cultural aspect of language houses with the activism and expression of interest groups.
The College should support the Mosaic House residents as increasing awareness and promoting its goal throughout campus. Perhaps this specialty housing can be extended to freshman dorms for new students interested in such a program. While filling out their housing surveys in the summer, the incoming freshmen can choose to apply for spaces in selected dorms. This will instill in them the meaning of diversity and activism throughout their college careers.
Since its founding, the Mosaic House has seen a huge surge in the number of applicants. The number has increased from approximately 30 to 40 applicants in the past to over 100 for the current school year. This steady rise in awareness and interest is very promising, but the College needs to help sponsor this institution in the future. The College can extend the current Mosaic House by adding more rooms from Jamestown North or by providing other dorms with similar goals and facilities.
Diversity on campus is lively and ambitious with a plethora of cultural, religious and feminist organizations focused on increasing awareness through shows, speakers, fairs and other events. However, the Mosaic House is unique in the sense that students are allowed an opportunity to live and experience this amalgamation of identities every day. The house also hosts events to welcome students, like experiencing the taste of Filipino cooking while listening to Persian music and possibly learning a few Hindi words from a resident.
Diversity plays a significant role in increasing the richness of the College, but the expression of this diversity is even more important. The Mosaic House allows for a concentrated voice to engage in dialogue with the community. Living in the lavish Jamestown residences is a dream come true. However, I cherish the context of this dream even more. Interacting with students from such distinct backgrounds and sharing similar interests with them is very rewarding.
It is always surprising how much can be learned and exchanged just through a conversation — a casual interaction of diverse identities.
Kalyani Phanasalkar is a sophomore at the College.