Neff Hall welcomes new LLC

Jacob Waring — Online Editor

La Casa, located in Neff Hall, is a hybrid between a hall theme and a living community based around Hispanic and Latinx language and culture, according to Mandi Kuster, the associate director for Residential Education & Community Development.

“La Casa is very new. It is a piloted living, learning community [and hall] theme,” said Kuster. “It is for students who are interested in learning the language or learning the culture.”

Living Learning Communities are themed floors within residence halls which are aimed at specific students. These themes have ranged from first generation to nursing majors; the goal to create a community that supports students facing similar or the same issues.

According to Kuster they decided to keep La Casa more open than other communities due to how new it is.

Other living communities require taking related courses to be within the hall. La Casa has a similar requirement, in which residents need to take a Spanish class during the fall or spring semester of that academic year. Kuster said if students are interested in the language or culture, then they are welcome to La Casa.

“We’re going to run it more as a theme,” Kuster said. “There has been a few students who have been selected to live in the community, and we reached out to them individually about the events they have planned.”

Students specifically selected for the learning community will be grouped together in shared and adjacent rooms in order to encourage utilization of their language.

One of those students is nursing major, Ashely Resto, a sophomore, who said that she thinks it is great seeing a living community associated with Spanish majors. Resto said the experience has been great thus far.

“I’m in a few Spanish classes, and my roommate right now is part of La Casa. We’ve been able to interact, and it has helped me with my Spanish classes,” Resto said.

Some students, such as nursing major Jala Mitchell, a freshman, have indicated those in charge of organizing La Casa need to promote it better to students like her, who are new to Southern.

“I don’t really hear anyone talk about it as much as it should be talked about,” said Mitchell.

The Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program Steering Committee is partnered with La Casa in terms of helping with the creation of the name. Resha Cardone, the chairperson of the World Language and Literature department, worked with Kuster to make La Casa a reality according to Kuster.

According to Cardone, it is rather common at for other universities’ living communities to focus on language, but La Casa is the first attempt in Southern’s history.

“For many years, I wanted to bring a Spanish language living-learning community [to] Southern,” said Cardone.

Cardone said if La Casa becomes a success, then there will be a possibility for more learning communities to be based around other languages in the future.

“If we have success with Spanish. There are many
people in the department of World Language and Literature who have interest in opening up similar resident hall experiences for other languages,” she said.

Cardone said she has ambitious plans: she hopes that the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences will find a donor who would purchase a real house for a living, learning community. She said that because ‘la casa’ means ‘the house’ in Spanish, having an actual house on campus for the Hispanic and Latinx learning community would be ideal.

“I think there’s a lot of advantages to having a house, I think it would be more appealing to students,” she said. “I think, [for] Spanish speaking students, [it would be] sort of symbolic to have a real home on campus [and] would speak volumes for the [school’s social justice] initiative to become a Spanish serving institution.”

Photo credit: Jacob Waring

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