Checking in with the First Year Minerva Residential Pilot Program


Wold art displayed at Wold Minerva House. Photo by Alex Appel.

Megan Reilly, Contributing Writer

The First Year Minerva Residential Pilot Project was inspired by a desire to strengthen the connections between first year students and their Minerva Houses, as well as to fill available spaces in the larger houses. Traditionally, Wold, Messa, Sorum and Green have had open rooms entering into the fall term; the sixteen First Year Pilot Project students currently reside in two double rooms on the third floor of each house.

These 16 first years earned their spots in their Minerva Houses through an application process, answering questions like “what aspects of the Minerva Program do you connect most with?” Srihari Balaji ’22 of Messa House was inspired by the tight-knit community of the Minerva Houses, noting that “[she] wanted to mingle with upperclassmen and [her] fellow freshmen to understand their perspectives about different topics.”

Each Pilot Program student is required to be an active member of their House Council, attending all weekly meetings and other House events. Students are also required to attend bi-weekly meetings with Suzie Benack, the Faculty Associate for Minerva Programs, who was instrumental in the founding of this program and as a liaison to the students.

Benack notes that the First Year Pilot Project students share two special commonalities: “A desire to live in a small, close community and forge relationships with upperclassmen” and “a desire to get involved in a leadership role on campus, contributing to the life of their House and shaping the wider campus community.”

In addition to support from the Minerva Programs Office and House Councils, each student has a mentor who also lives in the house in an effort to provide encouragement and knowledge about the Minerva Program and campus life. Balaji has already connected with his mentor, Nathaniel Hutton ’22, to discuss potential programming events and improvements to Messa House.

Student and Faculty Representatives for the four Pilot Project Houses will also be taking the first year students out to lunch next week as a way to further strengthen the connections and support systems within each house.

Pilot Project first years have a wide variety of interests, including collecting oral narratives, hiking and astrophysics. The students are required to program at least one event in their Minerva House throughout the year, with an available budget of up to $500. Balaji plans to conduct an Indian culture event, with food, art and a movie.

Pilot Project students are especially encouraged to act as a bridge between their first year peers and the Minerva Houses by hosting events or even encouraging friends to attend council meetings. Students are also required to connect with their first year hall Resident Advisors (RAs) and attend all hall meetings in order to maintain a relationship with their fellow first years.

In the winter term, the Minerva Programs Office will conduct assessments to determine the direction of this program for future years. Benack hopes that the first year students will find fulfillment and community in their Houses, and “give more first year input to the Minerva program.”

At the end of the academic year, the first year students will provide feedback and reflections on how living and leading in their Minerva House has had an impact on their first year experience.