Living and Learning Communities

Dorms build on commonalities

The best way to secure prime residence hall space with your best friends is to earn it through service to others. That’s exactly what Brittany Van Arkle, a sophomore from Indianola, Iowa, and seven friends decided when they formed a Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) chapter this year.

Last fall they lined Cornell’s pedestrian mall with statistics about the dangers of smoking during the Great American Smokeout. They also conducted three workshops to educate students about breast, cervical, and lung cancers.

But their largest effort is filling the role of recruitment chairpersons for Relay For Life, an annual fund-raising event for the American Cancer Society (ACS) organized by Cornell’s Leadership and Service Office. CAC recruited 41 teams for the May 11–12 overnight event.

With support from the ACS and Cornell staff, Van Arkle says CAC members have learned a great deal about running their own organization.

"It’s prepared us for the real world when we will be the ones in charge,” she says.

CAC members live together on the Living and Learning Community floor of Merner Hall. They share the floor with members of VIGOR, whose purpose is making the campus more environmentally friendly, and Helping Hands, a group of women who donate hand-crocheted items to various charities. The Third Wave Resource Group, focused on women’s issues, lives in Harlan House.

The members of CAC bonded on Connect Floor—a firstyear floor focused on service and leadership—last year. Van Arkle says students came to Connect Floor with a diversity of backgrounds, interests, and personalities. But they quickly connected and developed an open-door policy, thanks in part to a facilitated retreat at Lake Macbride where they learned about each others’ temperaments, leadership styles, etc.

"It was a great environment for me to come into as a freshman because it made me feel like I had strong bonds at Cornell almost instantly,” says Van Arkle.