In the Fall of 2016, Pagliaro Selz Hall opened. This dorm is a first-year only building, and the first of three new buildings that will comprise the first-year village. The intentions behind the first-year village are to create a space for integrative learning, strengthen co-curricular community space, bring faculty back to live on campus, and help to better prepare students for the jobs of the future. This community of first-years is said to be a living-learning environment planned for interaction, with prominent communal areas for students to come together to cook, share, and learn.
“Goucher College’s focus on innovation extends beyond our classrooms and approach to learning and also encompasses student-life. That vision is reflected here in Pagliaro Selz Hall,” said President Bowen.
With this vision in mind, President José Antonio Bowen speaks about how the design features of Pagliaro Selz, the long hallways and distance to the bathrooms, the glass walls of the laundry room, and the increased speed of wifi in common rooms as compared to in rooms, are all measures intended to increase student interaction, prevent isolation, and ultimately increase first-year retention rates. Contrary to this objective, first-year retention rates have actually decreased since the implementation of Pagliaro Selz in the Fall of 2016. In the Fall of 2015, there were 82% returning first-years, 79% returning first years in the Fall of 2016, and 78% returning first years in the Fall of 2017.
Linda Barone, the Associate Director of Planning, Design, and Construction said in an interview, “The first year village [is] so central to Jose’s vision. And I think it really is going to make a huge difference for first year students coming in, in terms of creating community.” She discussed the amenities that will be in the first-year village, such as an outdoor fireplace, a rehearsal space, a gaming lounge, and a student success center.
While the first-year village aims to build community among students and ultimately increase first-year retention rates, student’s experiences with a first-years-only dorm give insight into the effectiveness of a first-year village and if Goucher was successful in its intentions.
The idea of a first-year village, with brand new buildings and facilities can be a major attraction to a prospective student. While touring Goucher, current first-years received mixed information on what their dorm situation would be for the 2017-2018 year. Some were told that the first-year village would be finished by the time they started at Goucher, others were told that all freshman would be living in PSelz, and some were told that P. Selz would only hold some freshman, while the rest would be housed elsewhere while construction of the first-year village continued. The last situation is what this year’s first-years actually got, although not what all freshmen were told when touring Goucher.
When asked about their experiences with living in Pagliaro Selz, first years currently living in P. Selz and current Sophomores who lived in P. Selz last year commented:
“My experience is unfair. I live in P. Selz, and my other friends live in air-conditioning-less buildings like Probst and Winslow. We are all paying the same for housing on campus, but some are stuck in buildings that get no A/C and are not taken care of.” -Brandon Rodriguez ‘21
“I think living in P. Selz as a freshman is incredibly isolating. It feels more like an apartment complex than a dorm facility. It feels really sterile and divided, there is definitely a lack of community. People in the Stimson buildings seem much more close knit and integrated into the campus as a whole. P. Selz is really cut off due to construction and everybody keeps to themselves.” -Natalie Simendinger ‘21
“It was mixed. It was nice to always have acquaintances around and the common rooms were really cozy. Problem was a lot of people did a shit job of keeping them clean. I also didn’t like how cut-off it felt from the rest of campus especially since pretty much all my friends were seniors and I had to go to wherever they were. It was nice to experience living in a newly designed residence hall but I definitely don’t miss it.” -Sophomore Communications Major
“I feel very lucky to have lived in P. Selz. It was certainly cool to be able to control my own air conditioning and to have a brand spankin’ new dorm room and furniture. I did find, however, that most of my friends that I made my first year ALL lived in P. Selz. It’s almost like a lot of those friendships were just out of convenience— you live down the hall from me, it’s easy to see you and hang out… I felt like I did not make ANY upperclassmen friends since all I did was chill in P. Selz. but I felt that I was missing out on experiences that other first years who DIDN’T live in P. Selz had— shitty dorms, older neighbors, and just SPACE from fellow first years.” -Kallie Blakelock ‘20
“I think it is a great place to have your first year at Goucher, being able to all be together and get to know each other while you go to class and commiserate with each other. There was definitely a culture of privilege and students not appreciating what they had within the freshman village last year, and well as this year and is something that I assume with continue into the future.” -Antonia Pettit ‘20
When asked about their experiences living in Pagliaro Selz last year, as compared to their living situation this year, current sophomores said:
“Now I live in Mary Fisher, and it’s pretty disgusting but it’s comfortable. I can’t explain it but it’s got a really cool vibe to it. It also helps that it’s right in the middle of campus which makes everything easily accessible.” -Sophomore Communications Major
“This year i lived in Stimson Probst. I LOVE Stimson. the rooms are more homey than P. Selz— The Stimson people also have a shared story. Everyone has this opinion that Stimson sucks, but once you live there, you realize that it is actually pretty cool. It is close to food, close to my parking spot, and has a plethora of age groups throughout. My friends did not live near me so i was forced to go over to their different dorm rooms which was good for me.” -Kallie Blakelock ‘20
When asked about a potential social divide among Goucher students created by Pagliaro Selz, there are conflicting views points. Some simply state that no social divide exists…
“I don’t think the social divide is really there.” Ramona Kamb ‘21
“Not really, they just happen to live somewhere else.” Dina Diani ’21
And others believe that the social divide is present and problematic…
“P. Selz is far from most buildings and it requires others to walk along the construction. P. Selz is for first-year students. Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors are excluded from the
residential side of the building and it is not fair. But how will first-years create relationships with upper-level students if they [upperclassmen] can’t step foot in a residential common room without waiting for somebody to open the door?” -Brandon Rodriguez ‘21
“I think since P. Selz is a strictly freshman filled place it can be hard to mingle with other classes. In Stimson there is more variety and it’s easier to find friends who are older. P. Selz has very limited options in terms of who you can become acquainted with.” Natalie Simenginer ‘21
“I absolutely think that there is a divide; before I even moved onto campus upperclassmen felt cheated out of the newer, nicer dorms that they typically worked for and now these brand new first years are just getting these amazing, “hotel like” dorms handed to them. The first years living in Frolicher or Stimson are definitely valid in their feelings in that they have been cheated out of something. They are all paying the same amount of money to live in extremely different living conditions.” -Antonia Pettit ‘20
When asked for their opinions on the up and coming first-year village, students had mixed feelings. Some believe it will be a mostly positive addition to the campus and community:
“I like the idea of the first year village because I hope that the new buildings will help create a community of first years that will be able to have more interactions with each other and build a stronger community that can grow past their time at Goucher.” -Antonia Pettit ’20
“Once there is a first year village, I feel first years will be brought together and be closer. At that point, all first years will live closely so there won’t be any physical separation” -Dina Diani ’21
“Once it’s completed I think the campus will flow better since construction will be out of the way. The construction is one of the biggest isolating factors by far. Hopefully it will create a community but also allow the incoming kids to explore campus with ease. I hope it also holds events and gatherings for different classes so there is some diversity for the freshman.” -Natalie Simendiger ‘21
While some students foresee major issues with the first-year village:
“Once the First-Year Village is complete, upper-level students will lose 1/4th of the student population. This means that first-years will probably have their own bubble. Most upper-level students may feel excluded and unable to enjoy everything that the first-year village has to offer. Yes, they will probably have access to the first floor. But the residential space will not be welcoming.” Brandon Rodriguez ‘21
“The first year village will be good for establishing a tight community with incoming freshman but I can’t shake the feeling that a lot of the money and effort put into the FYV should’ve been put into fixing the dingier parts of campus that the majority of the students live in. It feels like most of the school’s money is being spent on people who don’t go here yet.” -Sophomore Communications Major
“While I can see how in theory the first year village would be a good idea. In practice, though, I foresee big problems. If all of the first years live together – ALL OF THEM- it is very likely that they will spend most of their time in that complex and therefore not make friends with upperclassmen, which I think is crucial. they will get sick of each other, just like my friends and I did. They will grow together through their shared first experiences in this new chapter in their life— but part of that chapter is making older friends and being uncomfortable sometimes (I mean this in terms of meeting new people or living in NOT top quality dorm rooms). I think all dorms should be grade mixed. Sectioning them off will not do them good in the long run.” -Kallie Blakelock ‘20
While Pagliaro Selz and the first-year village may seem like a beneficial addition to the campus in theory, students’ personal experiences with the dorm say otherwise. Will the up and coming first-year village achieve the goals of increased interaction and development of a stronger community, or will it have the opposite effect, creating a more significant social divide between first-years and upperclassmen?