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Common Space—Life in the Engineering & Computer Science Learning Community
Going away to college is a rite of passage. For roommates Anna Holdosh ’21 and Priya Ganesh ’21, move-in day was as nerve-racking as it was exciting. Fortunately, they have one big thing in common—they are both students in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Their pairing was no coincidence. Syracuse University provides students with the option to live in formal learning communities where students who share a major or college have special access to academic and social resources that are specific to their programs of study.
“I was pretty nervous,” says Holdosh, an environmental engineering major. “This has been the longest that I’ve been away from my family. I was worried about adjusting to that and balancing my work with being social and staying active.”
On top of worries about being away from home for the first time, Holdosh and Ganesh shared concerns about their programs. After all, engineering and computer science disciplines are notoriously challenging. The rigorous curricula can feel overwhelming, especially when students are also undergoing a major life transition.
Living in the Engineering & Computer Science Learning Community in Shaw Hall quickly put these concerns to rest. Holdosh and Ganesh found that by living alongside students who are feeling the same pressures, a special bond is quickly forged.
“It’s so helpful to live with people who are in the same mode as you,” says Ganesh, a chemical engineering major. “The guys across the hall are in a lot of the same classes as me. If there’s an exam, half the hall has the same exam. If you’re having trouble with your homework, you can yell out your door, ‘Who knows how to do question two?’ and someone is going to be able to help you. It makes you feel at home because lots of people are going through the same things that you are.”
The camaraderie among students (or “instant friends” as Holdosh puts it) is just one of many great perks of living there. In addition to the wide range of attractive features offered in SU residence halls, the learning community provides students with many direct links to the staff and faculty in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
“We bring the resources from their classrooms to their living space,” says Kirby Gibson, residence director of Shaw and Lyons halls. Presentations by professors, peer-facilitated academic excellence workshops and engineering and computer science themed programming all take place in-house. Students have access to “team rooms” with white boards and flat panel televisions they can display their work on. And computer lounges that feature all of the computer programs engineering and computer science students require are accessible 24/7. Shaw’s staff even coordinates trips that are free of charge to residents, like a recent trip to Niagara Falls, to see the Niagara Power Vista and ride the Maid of the Mist.
Gibson says, “It’s our job to help get them connected to their passion. We make sure they have the resources to establish peer connections and to help them be successful throughout their academic journey.” With so many benefits available to them, students in the learning community find that no matter where their fellow engineering and computer scientists live, they tend to gravitate toward Shaw. For Holdosh and Ganesh, that only reinforces their belief that they made the right choice by living in the learning community. Ganesh says, “Leaving behind high school friends and family for a new set of people from all over the world in a place that’s far from home sounds scary, but a community like this makes it easy. Strangers become family.”