Connecticut College’s Unity House, a beacon of support for generations of underrepresented students, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary with a year-long series of events.
Officially known as Race and Ethnicity Programs (REP) at Unity House as of 2018, the center originated in 1973 as the Minority Multicultural Center in Vinal Cottage across Route 32, and moved to its current location on the main campus in 1989. But more than a name and a space, Unity House is about community.
“What I’ve seen in my short time as Dean is how committed people are to Unity House,” said Interim Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion Nakia Hamlett. “The students have told me how meaningful is has been to them that they’ve always been connected, from the time they’re freshmen until they graduate. Alumni recall how this was a refuge—a place of safety and a place for fun.”
Students, alumni, families, faculty and staff gathered during Fall Weekend to kick off the celebrations. The Offices of Advancement and Institutional Equity and Inclusion partnered to host a series of workshops and seminars focused on equity and inclusion. Saveena Dhall ’94, Annie Scott ’84, Maarten Terry ’83 and Ronnie Venture ’86 co-chair the 50th Anniversary of Unity House Committee.
Celebrations will continue throughout the 2023-2024 academic year, culminating with a Celebrations Reunion for all alumni of color during Reunion 2024 from May 31-June 2.
Unity House welcomes students of all backgrounds and ethnicities and offers advising and support for students of color in the affirmation and celebration of their cultural identities; collaborates with other departments and student organizations to plan activities related to cultural heritage months; engages in community building through initiatives that promote awareness of diversity and multicultural issues; and offers the Genesis mentoring program, open to every first-year student in REP and designed to acclimate first-generation and first-year students of color to the campus experience at Conn.
Director Chris Campbell said, “Unity House's 50th anniversary really speaks to how instrumental it has been in supporting underrepresented students here on campus and helping them cement that sense of belonging that is so crucial to post-secondary success. It also speaks to how committed our students are when it comes to supporting one another. They lead the majority of the programming and events we offer and really take ownership of Unity House as a whole. I'm honored to help support the great work that has been done already and continue to look for new ways to support underrepresented students as we move forward.”
Hamlett said the directors are just as committed. “All of the people who work in the Unity House programs are experts in what they do. The directors are intentional in their use of best practices and how we can truly support this wide range of students to help increase their sense of belonging at Conn.”
Looking ahead, Hamlett said she hopes Unity continues to be a space specifically designed to support students from a variety of identities. “I would also hope, in the next 50 years, that people across campus, even if they don’t identify as BIPOC or these other identities, see it as a place where they are welcome, that they’re interested in, that they want to explore and that helps them grow as individuals,” she said.