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A home away from home

Hometown: Boston, Mass.
Major: Biochemistry 

Hometown: Boston, Mass.
Major: Political Science, Spanish & Hispanic Studies

Melissa Rodriguez was often homesick her first year of college. But at Union, she found a welcoming space that helped her adjust to being on her own in her new surroundings.

“It was a comfort to have a Minerva House to go to,” she says. “The houses feel really homey. They all have kitchens, couches, TVs and cozy dens to do homework. And there’s always someone around if you’re feeling blue."

Bisiayo Fashemi was one of those people. The two, who share a hometown, are now close friends and co-chairs of Breazzano House, one of seven campus Minerva Houses. They are constantly cooking up house events, such as a new weekly café with food, jazz and slam poetry that is reminiscent of a 1920s Paris salon.

“Café Breazzano is our baby,” Bisiayo says. “We want it to be our Union legacy. It’s held once a week, open to the entire campus and entirely student-run. Each week we create a different theme for the menu, such as espresso and baked goods one week, smoothies the next.”

From dining to deep discussion

Breazzano also hosts “Hungry Hungry Hump Day” every Wednesday, bringing in food from local restaurants, and they’ve planned house barbecues and other meals. And while food is always a good draw for college students, so is intellectual discussion. Bisiayo and Melissa often invite professors to the house to talk about hot topics in their fields and why they teach at Union.

“Our professors have done amazing things in their careers,” Bisiayo says. “For example, a professor in the Anthropology Department led a revolution in her small town in China. Who wouldn’t want to hear about that? Informal house discussions are a great way for students to connect with faculty members.”

With a little help from your friends

Bisiayo and Melissa admit that leading a Minerva House entails a lot of hard work, including managing the house budget, overseeing meetings of the house council, and developing, executing and marketing events.

“We have a lot of help,” Melissa says. “Our house council is very committed. The members volunteer to organize many of the events, which takes some of the weight off of our shoulders.”          

As co-chairs, the two friends focus on inclusivity.

“We want to be known as a welcoming environment,” Melissa says. “We try to attract students from a variety of social groups – athletes, artists, members of the Greek system, under- and upperclassmen. We want everyone to feel comfortable here. It’s a Minerva Program goal – and also a personal goal of ours – to support campus diversity.”

Making a house a home

Like some students, Bisiayo and Melissa live in their Minerva House.

“It’s great,” Melissa says. “There are quiet spaces to do homework, as well as social spaces where you can hang out with other people.”

“Plus, house funding allows us to make updates to the spaces,” says Bisiayo. "We recently purchased new pots and pans for the kitchen since so many of our residents like to cook.”          

The two have certainly built friendships, camaraderie and leadership skills at Breazzano.

“I have to admit,” Melissa says, “I’m so comfortable here, it’s often hard to get me out of the house.” 

Take a seat at Dinner with a Professor:

Click play (above) or view on VIMEO