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Lula O'Donnell / Columbia Daily Spectator

Special Interest Communities (SICs) have been around since the 1980s—although they were then-called “Special Interest Housing,”—and have since evolved into the current branch of fourteen houses on campus. To help you through your SIC application process, Spectrum is shining the spotlight on four SICs you should keep your eye out for by interviewing students living in or involved with them.

Application Development Initiative (ADI) House

Elza Bouhassira

William Wang, CC ’21

What do you think people should know before joining ADI House?

“I think people first should definitely know where the house is because I actually didn’t know where it was before I arrived this year, so that’s definitely a plus. And also, I think people should really get to know the other people that live there before they start actually living there. So after you find out when everyone’s gotten in, you guys should message the other people who are also going to be living in the house next year and try to get in touch before you start living together.”

Why did you choose to join ADI House?

“I actually did this program in freshman year called Jade, which we went around during winter break and we visited a bunch of companies around New York. There I met a lot of people who actually previously lived in ADI House and they were like, ‘You should really apply. It’s a really great community. You can probably get a single if you’re lucky.’ And so, I applied and a bunch of my friends also did, and we ended up getting in, and it’s been a really great time.”

What are some activities and events that ADI House holds?

“We host bondings, we watch movies together, we go out for meals as a community.”

What’s your favorite thing about ADI House?

“This is pretty cliché, but definitely the people that live there because I know everyone in my year that lives on the floor, and so it’s really tight. We also obviously share a common interest, and that’s something we can all bond over a lot, and so it just really helps break the ice before you even get to know the people that you’re living with, and it does help foster a pretty close community.”

What kind of people should apply to ADI House?

“I think if you’re looking for a single you should definitely apply because there’s a higher chance of getting a single. If you have a really strong passion as one of your interests, and you’re just looking to meet people that have the same interests as you, then it’s a really good way to do that. Thirdly, I think if you have a couple of close friends and you all have a common interest, then it’s a really good time if you guys all apply and all get in.”

Anything else people should know?

“One of the things that is commonly viewed as a downside to living in the SIC building is that it is ‘far’—it’s further away than McBain because it’s on 113th and Riverside basically. But honestly, if you think about it, the walk down 113th isn’t that far—it’s like a one minute walk—so don’t let the distance discourage you because it’s still far closer than like Harmony.”

Comedy House

Aliya Schneider

Kenya Plenty, SEAS ’21

What do you think people should know before joining Comedy House?

“I think what they should know is that Comedy House is a community in which we really do strive to relieve stress among the individuals there. It’s not uncommon to see us hang out in the lounge talking at three in the morning, and it’s really a place where you make the community yourself. Everyone comes together, and you find your group within Comedy House. It could be everyone, or it could be a couple of individuals, because you do spend a considerable amount of time with them. I’m constantly in my friends’ rooms just talking for hours—technically avoiding schoolwork but it’s a cathartic process, like I’m ready to tackle the schoolwork. That’s really what we’re about, just like having a space to be who you are and interact with who you want to interact with and make your own space for happiness.”

Why did you choose to join Comedy House?

“I personally chose Comedy House because the boyfriend of one of my friends from last year actually lived in Comedy House before and showed me around the dorm. I was like, ‘Wow, these are really nice rooms, and this is a place where I want to be.’ I know that freshman year I struggled and was a little bit isolated, and now being forced to live in a double with a roommate is just super helpful because there’s always someone there to talk to. My roommate Victoria (love you Victoria!), she’s the best, and I just think it is a much better place to be in. A lot of my friends were going to live in Comedy House, it’s great housing, there’s such a good vibe there, and there’s always someone to talk to, and so I just thought, ‘Oh, this is a lot better than being in some random McBain double.’”

What kinds of events and activities does Comedy House hold?

“This semester, we’re trying to put on a comedy show. Last year, we did a games night, pizza night, sometimes we just hang out on the floor and play random card games together. Our comedy show will probably be our campus-wide event for the upcoming semester. We try to keep things within our own group; we also went to OktoberFest (sadly I couldn’t go because I was away competing that weekend). We do a lot of fun things as a community.”

What’s your favorite thing about Comedy House?

“I think my favorite thing is that you have a place to make your own space what you want it to be. I think in Comedy House it's much easier to connect with people. I know last year I just sat in my room like ‘this is cool’ and I had some friends, but this year, it’s a lot easier because you can just go across the hall and there's someone there, and you just know that people will be around, it's just a matter of people connecting with each other. There're also many other SICs in our building on different floors, and so I've actually gotten to know people in Muse House, and now we're really close friends, and I probably wouldn't have met any of these people If they didn't live in our building.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

“The one thing I would say is please apply to be a part of Comedy House. It's a really fun space, it's really great housing. And you know, you could get a really bad lottery number as a sophomore, but if you join Comedy House that won’t be an issue. We have some of the newest housing on campus, and you'll be with a great community. One of my friends, Carlo, is staying over in Comedy House to be a recruitment director. He's a pretty great guy, like there are some people staying over who are really great, so it'll be a great place to live next year.”


Lula O'Donnell

Sara Kowdley, CC ’21

What do you think people should know before joining Greenborough?

“Greenborough is a really tight-knit community, and everyone who is a member of it puts a lot of emphasis on building a strong community, so if you’re going to apply to live here first of all—I think this is a positive thing, not a burden—you have to be willing and excited to open your space and yourself up to people in the house to cultivate that community, and secondarily, we are a sustainability-focused house, so not everybody does the same things, but everybody’s connected to sustainability in some way, so being willing to commit to live sustainably in any way that you can, and to participate in our potlucks, and just sort of be aware and present of that.”

Why did you choose to join Greenborough?

“I entered Columbia in 2016, and after I finished freshman year, I took a year off because of a really difficult experience my freshman year, and was burned out from high school and sort of needed to press reset a little bit, and coming back, I recognized that one of the hardest things for me my freshman year was sensing a lack of a strong community, so I thought it would be great to put myself into an intentional community when I returned. So I applied to Greenborough, which was the only SIC I applied to because the vibe of it just seemed open and although the other SICs are great, Greenborough seemed to be a really good match for me because I’ve always cared about sustainability. I like hiking and camping and I’ve done some organic farming, so I thought I would fit in well. I like to cook, etc. I applied because I really wanted an intentional, happy community on campus where people were invested in each other and in the space, and I was lucky to be accepted and it made my transition back to school infinitely better.”

What kinds of events and activities does Greenborough hold?

“First of all, within our own community, we do certain things, and there are certain things we do to engage with the greater Columbia community. Within ourselves, we have a potluck every Sunday night, which is our mostly mandatory house moment to connect and reflect each week. Everyone cooks something, and it’s really nice. We also do impromptu things together, like go volunteer on the weekend, or go to yoga together, or just grab a meal in the dining hall, or just cook together. In terms of the greater community, we have certain events, like talks that we will host to open up. We also host concerts in the basement. We also try to host fundraisers for local causes in New York City one to two times a semester.”

What’s your favorite thing about Greenborough?

“That’s a really hard question! I don’t know what it is about the space or the water or whatever, but from the moment I arrived, I felt so welcome. By virtue of us all being in this space together, we want to make each other feel welcome and loved and cared for, and so everybody is invested in that goal. We have this sort of informal ‘doors open’ rule, like if you’re home and you don’t particularly want to be alone, you leave your door open and it’s not an abnormal thing to wander up the stairs and go into someone’s room and say, ‘Hey, let’s hang out,’ which is not like the general vibe in a lot of Columbia housing, where you very much keep to yourself, so I just very much love the culture of openness and acceptance. It’s not uncool to be loving and invested in cultivating your relationships.”

Do you have to major in a sustainability-related field to join Greenborough?

“You definitely don’t have to study an environmentally related field. Several people in the house study environmental bio, or environmental engineering, earth sciences, sustainable development, but I’m a political science major, and there are other people in the house that study history, econ, music, various other things.”

Anything else you’d like to share?

“I’d just encourage anybody who is interested to apply and to come see the space! We’re always happy to have people around. Greenborough has been for me one of the most important parts of my experience at Columbia. It’s created a home-base for me. We’re not all in the same friend group or all do the same activities, but we’re all united by this community. I feel that no matter what, I’m coming home everyday, and I think that’s a really special, unusual thing to find. I encourage you to apply and to ask anybody in the house if you have more questions about it!”

upLIFT House

Elisabeth McLaughlin

Kwolanne Felix, CC ’22

What do you think people should know before applying to upLIFT House?

“I hope people understand that this is a place of friendship and warmth where we really are positive people. The founding members that will be living there are a really close-knit group of friends, and the reason we wanted this house is not only so we can uplift each other, but so that we can uplift the whole community. We are honestly just an open group and really want to invite students who have various experiences and really create a place where we can learn from each other’s experiences and also work towards expanding the resources for FGLI students.”

How did you come about forming this initiative?

“My friend saw the email about SIC House applications and was like ‘We should do this!’ We were brainstorming, and the thing we had in common was that we were low income, with different ethnic and racial identities and nationalities—we’re very different but a lot of us met during the Academic Success Program or through Questbridge or through the larger FGLI groups out there. It was something that really pulled us together. Why not create a place that focuses on uplifting students like us and providing resources in a nice centralized place for students to seek some refuge, knowledge, affirmation, and community, especially because FGLI students often feel alienated from their peers.

Whether or not they live there, we wanted to allow students to see their communities represented and have the issues that really do affect their lives on the everyday be talked about and solved.”

What specific programs are you looking to run in upLIFT House?

“We’d definitely like to partner with the Food Pantry and have an accessible ‘Open Fridge’ policy pantry that students can just come by and grab a quick meal with us. Also, we’re interested in having an open library for students. We’re also interested in having programs like FLIP or Questbridge have events in our dorm and making an open space accessible to GS and Barnard students as well.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

“I guess just watch out for upLIFT! Do you know what the acronym means? It actually took a long time to make. So it’s ‘up’ and LIFT is ‘low-income first-generation trailblazers,’ and honestly that’s something we seek, and our goal is to live up to that name and to continue to be visible on campus because FGLI students are very much here, and we’re definitely making some noise, so who knows? I guess frat row better watch out!”

Hopefully, you’ve gained a bit of insight into some of your SICs-of-interest. Remember to apply through Columbia’s Undergraduate Student Life webpage by Feb. 10, 2019!

Spectrum staff writer Caroline Chen can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter at @ColumbiaSpec.

Housing Special interest community Comedy Greenborough ADI UpLIFT
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