A Global Disappointment

by Hannah Hyun-Jeong Nam | 11/13/14 7:28pm

As soon as I had confirmed my place at Dartmouth this past spring, the very next thing on my to-do list, ahead of all the bills, visas and health insurance, was housing. It was of the utmost importance to me where I would be living for my entire freshman year, so I started researching Dartmouth’s dorms with gusto.

After I got over my initial shock that communal bathrooms were a thing, I came across Dartmouth’s living learning communities. Five main options existed for incoming freshmen, but with an avid interest in international affairs and issues, especially as an international student, I was instantly drawn to the Global Village LLC. I could have access to international issues-orientated events and discussions as an integral part of my residence, among like-minded peers. I would be in such a diverse community, but still have a core community of freshmen. I would be living my interests.

Unfortunately, I set myself up for disappointment. I should have had taken note of the vague Global Village program statement on the LLC website, “Dartmouth’s Global Village is a residential community offering an interdisciplinary, integrated learning experience that holistically equips students to thrive as ethical, engaged and responsible world citizens and scholars … enabling them to take full advantage of the opportunities it affords to explore complex international issues and engage in off-campus experiences.”

Although I suppose I can make allowances for the usual grandiose drivel of mission statements, I was more than slightly mystified when I found nothing really that matched what the program claimed it would accomplish. I’m not sure when exactly Global Village plans to equip us to be “ethical, engaged and responsible world citizens” — we have had one off-campus experience that went as far as the Dartmouth Skiway for a Great Issues Scholar retreat. As for language and cultural exchange ... well, Dartmouth has left that completely up to the students to do for themselves. The discussions that I attended scratched the surface of the global issues they were based on.

I was worried at first that this disengagement I found with the program stemmed from a personal problem. Yet the more residents I spoke with, the more I recognized the pervasiveness of the issue. I spent most of this term talking to over a dozen of the Global Village’s 153 residents, collecting ideas and opinions since I moved in.

Akhila Kovvuri ’18, another in-house Great Issues Scholar who applied to the LLC because of her interest in international development, pointed to participation as a reason the programs were lacking.

“Not many people are willing to participate,” she said. “There are supposed to be 80 people in the Great Issues Scholars Program and barely 10 or 20 people turn up to events. The program is so dependent on participation that it wouldn’t help the people who are interested.”

Kovvuri said that one positive aspect of being a part of Global Village is the small group dinners, citing a particularly memorable one with the former deputy director of the CIA.

But to me, and many I interviewed, the aspect lacking most distinctly in Global Village is community — especially interesting given its title as a living learning “community.” This expectation has instilled in many students an unconscious motive to attend events not for the event itself, but to meet requirements.

Kovvuri attributed this lack of community to the limited interaction between floormates and the short periods of time actually spent within the dorms.

“We barely know each other and the only reason we come back to our dorms is to sleep, and then we wake up and we go to classes,” she said. “And also as freshmen, even maybe for upperclassmen, we have alternative social spaces which are probably more appealing. You are introduced to Greek houses, which are probably more attractive to [freshman] because it’s our first year as college students.”

Despite the bonding that occurs on different floors, Kovvuri said she believes this has nothing to do with the goals of the Global Village.

“It just happened because the residents want to come together, it’s their self-initiative — it’s not a Global Village initiative,” she said. “Even if you remove the name Global Village, the people on who come together to do things would still be doing those things. The fact that it’s Global Village doesn’t seem to make any difference.”

To supplement this, Kovvuri suggested focusing on internationally related events, such as cooking recipes from different countries and sharing a group meal.

Jennifer Lee ’17 said she also felt the lack of togetherness within the Global Village, arguing that the community has not lived up to expectations as an alternative social space.

“When they first started talking about LLCs, they made it sound like it was going to provide a firm community for people, like some kind of alternative to Greek life,” she said. “That’s what I expected coming in, hoping that I would get a community.”

Lee attributed the lack of communal atmosphere to the mixed class floor plan, while most first-year students experience freshmen-only floors.

Program staff advisor Casey Aldrich said that the initial goal for this mixed-class setting was to allow students to engage with people not only from different regions of the world, but also different class years.

“It would surprise me if you told me that the ’18s who are living in there aren’t feeling a sense of community,” she said. “I might also feel surprised if those participating in a language program were to say that, although I can see how the general Global Village people might feel that way if they were looking for something a little bit more.”

Aldrich said she believes as more departments involved in the programming within the Global Village start to put events on the schedule, a greater sense of community will be fostered.

However from an upperclassman perspective, Lee said, mixing different classes together has not achieved this goal.

“For freshmen I feel really bad, because you guys don’t get to have that whole floor bonding time like other floors have,” she said. “I know a lot of people say that it’s a good thing that the freshmen and upperclassmen are mixing, but I don’t think that mixing is going on. We’re still two separate groups of people.”

Despite the doubts, the newness of the program is notable — we are only a single term into its first year as an LLC.

“I think we’re figuring things out as we go along,” Aldrich said. “I think we’ll continue to tweak and make changes to the programming, and I think it’s largely going to be shaped by student input ... You guys make suggestions, and you’ll see the program change.”

She said she hopes that the students of Global Village will be comfortable in voicing their opinions and making suggestions to make positive change to the program.

Sometimes I wonder just how many people would have applied had this program been located in the River cluster, or how many would show up to the events if it did not have require a minimum number of attendances. I can only hope the program will improve from here so that it doesn’t lose those people who genuinely care about international issues.