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Mr. Gad's Performs for Inaugural Community Hour
Submitted on Wednesday, 3/6/2013, at 2:14 PM
By Daniel Diner '14
Community. It’s the sense of togetherness that defines us as a college. It’s the connection between students and alumni several generations and thousands of miles away. It’s the understanding that all which is achieved here, no matter how unique and innovative, is done in one place, under a common roof. It’s the one thing about Amherst that we can all get behind, communally.
So when Jessica Mestre ’10 determined that the sense of collective Amherst belonging could be yet stronger, she set out to extend its scope. Mestre—who since her graduation has taken on the role of student life fellow for the dean of students office—has been developing and championing a new Community Hour initiative for more than a year.
The inaugural event took place on Feb. 23 in Stirn Auditorium with an hour-long show by the student comedy group Mr.Gad’s House of Improv. To encourage mingling among groups, the seating was arranged so that students were beside professors or staff members, not other students.
The Community Hour originated with Mestre’s efforts to extend more support to students from lower-income backgrounds, which is a central objective of her job in the dean's office. When, during a focus group that Mestre held, one such student expressed her concern that the campus lacked an overall sense of community, Mestre was surprised. “I never thought of that,” she says. “I felt connected both as a student and as a staff member. It was interesting that something I felt quite strongly was lacking in someone else’s experience.” Mestre, after researching initiatives at other institutions, concluded that a regular community hour would help emphasize the college's inclusiveness.
Then, this past November, the college held a day-long community meeting in response to a rising concern about sexual disrespect on campus. That meeting led many to ask for more campus-wide events, and so Mestre, together with Association of Amherst Students President Tania Dias ’13 (whose candidate platform last year largely pivoted on the creation of a campus common hour) and Brendan Burke ’13, who holds the AAS position of all-campus tradition coordinator, drafted a formal proposal for the community hour. They won support from faculty, staff and President Biddy Martin.
At the inaugural event, Martin made a surprise appearance in one of the skits. Two more Community Hours are planned for this semester. Like the Mr. Gad’s performance, they will aim to foster a common community experience, to encourage dialogue and to highlight internal talent.
Mestre, whose term at Amherst ends this year, is delighted to see so much interest in Amherst community cohesion. “I hope that this becomes a more central, celebrated and beloved event,” she says. “I’m excited to see how this facilitates a larger sense of community on campus.”
To submit an idea into the Community Hour Suggestion Box, click here.