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May 28, 2001

College Nine celebrates its first year

By Jennifer McNulty

Less than a year after officially opening its doors, College Nine is celebrating what everyone agrees has been a very successful first nine months.
Popular 'coffeehouses' at College Nine feature the food, music, dance and entertainment of different regions. Photo: Jon Kersey

"There's a great sense of community," said Sharif Hamadeh, chair of the student government and an exchange student from England. "A lot of students have been active because it is a challenge to make a college and get it off its feet. We have had the responsibility and the advantage of shaping the college."

Nearly 400 students are affiliated with College Nine, including 300 on campus and another 100 who live off campus. The students have embraced the college's theme of global and international studies, building cultural, social, and academic activities around the theme.

"As an international student, I felt a responsibility to help the international college legitimize its claim that it is the international college," said Hamadeh.

College Nine, the first new college at UCSC since 1972, operates under the oversight of the Division of Social Sciences. Students have flocked to college events that celebrate global perspectives, including book-club meetings, faculty lectures, and extremely popular "coffee houses" that feature the food, music, dance, and entertainment of different regions around the world.

"Each month we focus on one region--Africa, Oceania, Asia, South America--and program events focusing on that particular region," said Slater. "Our coffeehouses have both social and educational components." Students get involved in cooking lessons and cultural performances that help give a glimpse of the culture. "A hundred students will turn out for a coffeehouse event," she added. "It's great."

Administrators who labored for years to develop College Nine are gratified to see it embraced so enthusiastically by students.

"I'm so glad the international theme resonated with students," said College Nine administrative officer Deana Slater. "There has been an extraordinary outpouring of student participation in the college this year."

Hamadeh acknowledged the hard work of staff who "paved the way" for students to make the college their own, and Slater credited her colleagues, as well.

"It has been a great year, and a lot of our success is due to our excellent staff," said Slater. "They are really committed to the students."

The college's student government has 12 active members who are tackling issues of funding, college bylaws, and other student concerns, and the college programming board organizes the coffeehouses and other events.

One of the most successful events of the year was a competition among the college's five residential buildings, called "Battle of the Buildings," that was the brainchild of an ad hoc group of students. The contest featured a student "Jeopardy-style" competition hosted by Social Sciences Dean Martin Chemers, a lip-synching contest, a tug-of-war, a pool tournament, and other activities.

"It was a great way to bring people out," said Hamadeh. "And it created a tradition that will carry on next year."

Most importantly, the college has earned a right to boast of its diversity and tolerance for multiple perspectives, added Hamadeh, who is half Palestinian and has organized Middle East events.

"The staff supports any student who takes initiative, and there's genuine encouragement of dialogue and tolerance of differing points of view," he said, adding that he has had engaging political discussions with an Israeli student in his building.

"We don't agree on almost anything, and yet we're polite, and we like each other," he said. "The multicultural attitude that's harbored here promotes an environment in which you can talk to people from separate backgrounds."

For psychology professor Campbell Leaper, provost and associate dean of social sciences, the first year has been dedicated to the development of the college's academic curriculum. In consultation with faculty, staff, and students, Leaper has helped reshape the core course by embracing the writing component.

The course, which will be required of all incoming College Nine students beginning this fall, is called A World of Possibilities Writing Workshop. Like the college itself, the core course will revolve around the theme of international and global perspectives.

Also new next year will be a two-credit experiential workshop during winter quarter called Exploring a World of Possibilities. The class will combine workshops, films, and other activities to foster continued student involvement with the college beyond the core course.

"We'll have separate sections for first-year students and transfer students, but everyone will take the core course and the follow-up workshop," said Leaper. "We want to involve transfer students in college life in a meaningful way, but separate sections will help them develop their own sense of community, too."

The college will also launch a practicum requirement beginning in 2002-03 that will require students to earn at least five credits in a study-abroad program, learning a foreign language, or participating in a service-learning project or research internship that relates to global or international themes.

"We want to ask students to give back to the community and get some practical learning experience in more worklike environments," said Leaper.

In addition, the college will offer highest honors to students who opt to spend three quarters studying abroad, carrying out a research project, engaging in a service-learning program, or participating in college leadership. "We'll offer a variety of ways in which students can excel, in addition to the traditional opportunities to earn honors and highest honors in their academic major," said Leaper, who is looking forward to launching the college's academic initiatives in September.

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