UMN living learning community for black women to open

Two University of Minnesota students are working to create the group.

Kaylin Fernandez and Nassisse Geleta pose for a portrait on Saturday, April 8, 2017. The two are starting a living learning community at the University for first and second-year black women at the University.

Ellen Schmidt

Kaylin Fernandez and Nassisse Geleta pose for a portrait on Saturday, April 8, 2017. The two are starting a living learning community at the University for first and second-year black women at the University.

Cindy Simba

The University of Minnesota will open a Living Learning Community specifically tailored for black women will open in a few years.

Freshman Nassise Geleta and sophomore Kaylan Fernandez are hoping to open the 10-room LLC in Pioneer Hall once the residence hall reopens in fall 2019 after a large-scale renovation project.

After learning about the Huntley House — an LLC for black men in 17th Avenue Residential Hall — during her freshman orientation, Geleta wondered if there was one for black women she could join. Finding none, she decided to start one herself.

“[It’s] about a two-year process,” Fernandez said.

Gelata said black women often have trouble getting jobs in certain fields, and the LLC help by providing academic and professional resources for its members.

The duo has teamed up with Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence Vice President of Equity and Diversity Cydney Gaines and Assistant Department Director of University Housing and Residential Life Kristie Feist.

“Living learning communities are there to help students transition into University life,” Feist said.

The University has over 30 LLCs that serve students of different backgrounds and academic interests. Feist said students engaged with the University, like those in LLCs, have higher retention rates.

The Huntley House serves as a community for black men on campus and also provides resources and mentorship.

“What we see in the media is a negative image, and sometimes on campus black men are looked down on,” said journalism sophomore Dijon McCain. He joined Huntley house after a mentor from high school encouraged him to be a part of it.

“It’s not only a place for black men to connect and discuss; it’s a safe space,” said Matthew Odumuyiwa, a CLA sophomore. The group focuses on building relationships and is a space for people of color to discuss topics and issues that impact minorities.

“Huntley House serves as something for people of color to come together and form bonds,” McCain said. The community has evolved to include all people of colors across genders.

The Huntley House is maintained by students who aim to increase the retention rates of black male undergraduates.

“My best friends and roommates now are people I met at the Huntley House,” Odumuyiwa said.

Junior Saul Flores-Lopez credits his positive first year in college to his LLC, CASA SOL.

“Coming to a different state and college, I wanted to have a support system,” he said.

Geleta and Fernandez said they hope to provide the same sense of community and belonging to the LLC they’re starting.