Community and leadership
Connect in Minerva Houses
Hometown: Wading River, N.Y.
Home-cooked meals and great conversations: Geology major Kaitlyn Suarez serves up both through Union’s Good Eats program.
Funded in part by Union’s Minerva House system, Good Eats coordinates with Schenectady ARC (Advocacy, Resources, Choices) to cook and plan meals in Minerva kitchens with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
A group of students and I get together with children and young adults and host the dinners in Green House or Wold House,” says Kaitlyn, whose work with this initiative was profiled in USA Today.
At Union, Kaitlyn has done geology field work from Alaska to Australia. She’s competed on the track and cross country teams. And she has grown as a leader, thanks in part to her Minerva House, where she has made close friends, organized campus events and volunteered to help others.
Here she explains the ins and outs of Minerva life.
A Minerva House welcome
The Minerva Program was really helpful my first week on campus. Everyone on your residence hall floor is assigned to the same Minerva, so if there was a house meeting or event, we could all go together. There’s a Minerva House tour the first week, when each house has games, prizes and food. That’s one of my first memories of Union—touring all the different Minerva Houses with my friends.
The first Minerva event I planned was apple picking at a local orchard. I had to apply for money to fund it, set up the transportation and get people to come. It was an easy process and a lot of fun. It was a great way to make friends my first year, and it inspired me to plan more events at Union.”
Each house has its own style. Some are similar to residence halls and others are actual houses. They all have kitchens and grills, and some have porches and backyards. They often have big seminar rooms with projectors because some classes are held in Minerva Houses. My house, Messa, has a foosball table, a huge couch, big TVs, places to do homework and a seminar room that can fit 40 people. Messa is also decorated with photos from the Minerva Fellows. This program funds Union graduates to do social entrepreneurship all over the world. There have been Fellows in Uganda, South Africa, Cambodia, Ecuador and other countries. I may apply to work with autistic children in China when I graduate.”
One of my first classes was in a Minerva House. It was the best introduction to academics at Union. We all sat on couches and kicked off our shoes. We studied what it means to be good and to be moral. What makes a good decision? What is morality? We read works by Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx and watched a film on the Buddha.”
Good Eats is not only about cooking, but also about peer mentoring. We talk to the young people about bullying and the struggles the kids face every day. They feel comfortable talking to Union students. Every time they leave, they ask when they’re coming back. You can see the cheer in their faces. I applied to run Good Eats my first year. My experience planning events for my Minerva House really came in handy. I knew how to get people involved. We currently have about 20 dedicated volunteers and hope to expand the program.”
Make it happen
The Minerva Program is amazing because you can essentially develop any program or event. I know some students who are really into coffee. They secured Minerva funds to buy high-end coffee beans and hold campus tastings. That’s what the Minerva Program is all about: pursuing your passions, building community and becoming a leader.”
Take a seat at Dinner with a Professor: