July 16, 2007

Exploring Culture at C.U. Program Houses

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This article appears in the 2007 edition of The Sun’s annual Freshman Issue.

In addition to the numerous dorms on North and West Campuses, apartments in Collegetown and scattered fraternity and sorority houses, there are nine residential program houses in which Cornell students may live.
All Cornellians, including freshmen, may apply to live in these houses, the majority of which are located on freshman-dominated North Campus. The program houses are dorms or sections of dorms where students with an interest in the house’s particular theme can choose to live together. Many of the houses also let students pay a programming fee to join the house and have full access to its programs without living in the house.
Program houses offer events such as performances and discussions aimed at exploring the house’s theme. Several of these programs are open to all members of the Cornell community.
Akwe:kon, pronounced “A-way-go” and meaning “all of us” in Mohawk, is a program house dedicated to American Indian heritage. The 35 residents of Akwe:kon share an interest in Native American culture, family, and community. Many Akwe:kon members take part in an annual smoke dance and pow-wow which draws members of the greater Cornell and Ithaca communities.
Up to ninety-six students with a passion for learning about and caring for the environment can choose to live in the Ecology House, known more formally as Ecology House: The Hurlburt Residential College for Environmental Education and Awareness. Typical events include environmental discussions, hikes, and kayaking trips.
The Jerome H. Holland International Living Center, more commonly known as HILC, is home to many foreign students as well as those interested in global political, economic, social and cultural issues. Members of the HILC community have the opportunity to learn about other countries without leaving Cornell. Some of the center’s programs include international affairs discussion groups, ice-cream hour and talents shows.
Music lovers at Cornell can choose to live in Just About Music, known appropriately as JAM. The 144 residents of JAM range from students who enjoy listening to music to students who sing or play musical instruments to students who major in music. Members of JAM can take advantage of the house’s pianos, drum set, CD library, practice rooms, concert stage, recording studio and weekly listening parties.
The only program house situated on West Campus is the Language House Program, located in the Alice Cook House. The Language House is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors hoping to become fluent in Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin or Spanish. Members watch movies, celebrate holidays from their target language’s countries and take annual trips to cities such as Montreal or New York City.
Fifty-seven students interested in Latino culture live in the Latino Learning Center, or LLC, located in Anna Comstock Hall. Each week there is an event called “Café Con Leche” during which students discuss issues facing Latino people across the world.
Students hoping to learn about other cultures may decide to live in the Multicultural Living Learning Unit, known as McLLU and pronounced “McClue.” This program house is located in Clara Dickson Hall, a freshmen dormitory. Members of McLLU celebrate diversity by holding presentations and festivities centering on their assorted backgrounds.
With 190 residents, Risley Residential College for Creative and Performing Arts is one of the largest program houses on campus and is unique in that it has its own dining hall. Risley is also home to recording and video-editing studios. Some of the programs Risleyites host each year include concerts, shows and art exhibits.
Ujamaa, which is pronounced ”oo-ja-ma’, is home to 140 students who share an interest in the history and culture of Black people. The name Ujamaa comes from a Ki-Swahilian word that roughly translates to “a community that works together as a family.” The house also focuses on advancing the academic and professional goals of its residents. Ujamaa’s members engage in discussion, hold dances and work with many off-campus social-action groups.
Cornell’s program houses provide a wealth of opportunities for all students to learn a great deal about topics that range from art to ecology to heritage.