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A sense of community

Connect in Minerva Houses

QUISQUEYA WITBECK
Hometown: Rensselaer, N.Y.
Major: "Global Health and Diplomacy" (Organizing Theme)

As a member of the Minerva Council, which oversees the College’s unique, wide-ranging Minerva House program, Quisqueya Witbeck works to foster community and connection on the Union campus. The Minervas emphasize choices for all students, with more than 500 social, cultural and academic activities planned yearly. “The Minervas are a thoughtful addition to intellectual life at Union,” says Quisqueya. Here, she explains the nuts and bolts of Minerva leadership and also gives us a look at what else fascinates her about Union.

How does the Minerva Council work?

The council doesn’t plan events; rather, it oversees the development of programs by each individual house council. At our meetings, we discuss everything from first-year orientation activities to ideas for new events that might involve more than one house. We always want to know how we can make the houses better and what students craving in the way of programming.

What do like best about being on the council?

I’m learning a lot about effective planning, decision-making strategies and what makes a good program. I like talking with administrators, faculty and other student reps. There are seven house council student delegates, seven faculty representatives and two members at large, plus Director of Minerva Programs Thomas McEvoy and assistant Director Laura Persico.

What are some of your personal favorite Minerva activities?

I love dinners and discussions in which we look at contemporary issues through the eyes of professionals who are prominent in their fields. For example, Dr. Mohamed Bailor Barrie came and spoke about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. His talk on this current global issue was one of the most interesting and showed how dynamic the Minervas can be in terms of responding quickly to what’s going on in the world. I also enjoyed meeting with music video director Joseph Kahn and author Andre Dubus III. And I like movie nights, and cooking and baking with friends in my Minerva, Sorum House.

Can you tell us what else you’re involved in on campus?

I’m a member of the Union College Bhangra and ballroom dance clubs, the African Student Association and Shakti, the South Asian Club. As a Girl Scout Leader at the Kenney Community Center, I work with 7 and 8-year olds on leadership, team-building, and arts and crafts projects. One of my favorite activities is volunteering with the Garnet Society, the student alumni association. I’m vice president of community relations. We staff events for Homecoming, ReUnion and Founders Day. I’m also a campus tour guide.

You’re a busy person! What about some of your academic activities?

At Steinmetz Symposium, I presented research on Juan Luis Guerra, a Dominican musician, and on “I went on the National Health Systems term abroad, and the intensive London theater mini-term, where we saw 10 shows in three weeks and I learned how to write theater critiques. It was a perfect fit with my interests, since theater is a reflection of culture and cultural values.

What are your future career plans?

I'd like to be an ambassador or diplomat, helping to keep open the dialogue between the U.S. and other countries to foster cross-cultural international cooperation.

Why did you choose Union?

The combination of the rigor, the flexibility to take diverse courses and the liberal arts experience are what interested me.


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