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CCS Fosters ‘Close-Knit’ Community With Unique Traditions

Michael Gsovski

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By Michael GsovskiContributing Writer

Walking into the lounge, it is easy to get the wrong idea.

On the left is a glass case showcasing a half dozen intramural championships and a certificate awarded a decade ago for helping develop Northwestern’s Internet presence. The walls are paneled with dark wood, and the large brass chandelier casts light on the trophy from last year’s green cup, an award given by Students for Environmental and Ecological Development. The first adjective that springs to mind is “pompous.”

But then there are the dance pads.

“There’s always two people playing and one person behind them practicing,” says Weinberg freshman Heidi Dessecker. “I think it’s really hilarious.”

Initially founded as the College of Urban studies in 1972, the College of Cultural and Community Studies, CCS, has one of the longest histories of any residential college on campus. The residential college’s Web site describes, “Interaction with the local community through a variety of outings and through community service while maintaining interest in the culture that defines the world outside this community.”

But that isn’t what brings or keeps people there. With a population of just 38 students – the largest in the past three years – it is mainly the appeal of a small community that draws students to this old North Campus hall.

“I really like the idea of a small dorm where you can interact with each other,” said Jessica Hoffman, a McCormick junior. “You can know everyone.”

Initially some students held reservations about the size of the dorm.

“I thought it was going to be really small and I wasn’t going to meet a lot of people, but this is one of the most close knit communities and it’s really good,” said Emily Knight, Weinberg junior.

In addition, the idea of being around different kinds of people appealed to many of the CCS residents. Weinberg freshman Monica Thomas equated the student body, which comes from cities as close as Chicago or as distant as Vietnam or Hungary, to a “world experience in one little house.”

However, this does not mean that the broader cultural aspects of CCS are overlooked. Many freshmen spoke enthusiastically about a recent trip to Pilsen, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. There they were taken on a tour of the area’s distinctive murals by a local artist and ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Discussion at a Sunday college meeting included the upcoming food co-op, a camping trip to Wisconsin, a game night with the CCS fellows and their annual volunteer Haunted House, for the benefit of the Asian Youth Services.

CCS President and Weinberg junior Dara Wathanapaisal explained the reason for the large number of activities at CCS.

“We’re small and we’re more inclined to do things with each other,” she said. “The traditions carry over.”

Among the traditions, Wathanapaisal noted one in particular.

“Topless recycling is when the (dorm’s) recycling chairs go around topless and collect people’s recycling,” she said. “Sometimes they dress up in themes.”

Reach Michael Gsovski at [email protected]

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