Nelson and Kenniston announce new HoPE housing option

New to housing options for the 2016-2017 academic year is the Hall of Purpose Exploration (HoPE) residential community. The initiative, which has been spearheaded by Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life Kurt Nelson, aims to create a community “dedicated to asking questions about purposeful work, meaningful lives, and community connections,” according to an email from Campus Life.

The HoPE housing option will be available to sophomores and juniors in residence for both semesters who are interested in asking big questions, such as “What are we here for? What are we doing with our time and talents? How can we make our mark on the world? What does a meaningful and purposeful life look like?” according to Nelson.

In an interview with the Echo, Nelson noted that the priority being given to sophomore students for this residential community is based in ample research. Sophomore year, according to Nelson, is unique, because “you are not focused on either entry into or exit from the community,” which characterizes both freshman and senior year’s experiences, and junior year is often focused on the off-campus study process. A different mode of research that Nelson described suggests that sophomore year can be “sort of a lost time,” which makes it an especially apt timeframe to discuss the questions of purpose that HoPE aims to address.

Nelson said that he has always found himself focused on “questions of meaning and purpose,” and is looking for a way to discuss those questions with a broad group of people, regardless of their spiritual or religious background. He also noted that, given the amount of research that demonstrates how much a sense of purpose can affect quality of life and satisfaction, the Mayflower Hill community does not spend enough time talking about the “why” question.

Reiterated in a promotion for HoPE housing is a story, adapted by Rabbi Johnathan Sacks, about three men quarrying rocks that emphasizes the importance of purpose: “When asked what they were doing, one replied, ‘Breaking rocks.’ The second said, ‘Earning a living.’ The third said, ‘Building a cathedral.’” The promotion then states, “We don’t need to ask which of the three had the most job satisfaction.”

Students who become enrolled in HoPE will have the opportunity to engage with purpose-focused questions through two modes that Nelson anticipates will be central to the community’s project. The first will be a once-monthly structured conversation that Nelson hopes will be “adjacent to and help push us towards the purpose question.” The second type of community gathering will take place in smaller groups with a mentor.

While the two forms of structured conversation will be the primary way in which the HoPE community will engage their material, Nelson believes there will be room for the students to determine “daily and weekly patterns to build a community that can talk about this sphere of questions.” In addition to conversation, the faculty mentors will help facilitate connections to the community when and where the students want.

Nelson hopes that by the end of the year-long experience, students who participate in the HoPE community will develop substantive relationships as a result and “feel supported in asking those big questions.”

Applications for HoPE, which are due on March 11 and hope to yield around 35 participants, will look for “genuine interest, curiosity, and a range of experiences,” according to Nelson. The same deadline applies to all specialty-interest housing options, which include Mind, Body, Spirit (formerly Wellness), the Quiet Community, Substance Free Living, Sustainable Living, and the Co-Op Hall.

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