Name: McKenzie Robida
Quintessential Co-op Memory? When everyone would get together and cook at the end of the day after class. The environment was fun and light and there was frequently good music and conversation. There was a real familial vibe and people often would spontaneously dance. It was a lot of fun.
Favorite Group Activity? A group consisting of a large portion of the house started a DnD group. This was great fun and where I learned how to play for the first time.
Most Valuable Lesson/Skill? It’s difficult to choose any one lesson. I grew up in a rural area with very little sense of community so I think the most significant lesson I learned was the power of a strong community. The community as a whole was resilient and just generally made me much happier than living alone. This has made community engagement and community building core values in my adult life.
What does the Co-op mean to you?
My time at the Students’ Co-op was seminal for my development and I frequently look back at the lessons that the experience taught me over the year that I lived in the Coop starting in 2017. I came to the Co-op like most people, looking for affordable housing. As a student, it was, and I imagine still is, difficult to find affordable housing. While the options for students were sparse, the land that was being allocated to additional housing units was being developed for luxury apartment buildings that were far out of reach for someone with a socioeconomic background like mine. I was on my own and my family couldn’t afford to help me stay on campus. When I learned of the Co-op through a friend I was immediately sold because the affordable rent would allow me to live on campus for the first time, to engage in study groups and to eliminate a long and costly commute from my family home. If I remember correctly, I was able to rent a space within walking distance of my classes with some food provided for roughly the monthly cost to fuel my car. What I thought I would find was a safe haven of affordable housing but what I experienced was much more profound.
I discovered a thriving community that worked collaboratively to feed and house one another with democratic elections and regular joint meetings to ensure that the members of the house were included and came to decisions as a community. I met some of the most interesting people of my life in this place. The diversity of and free expression of ideas alone led to me reconsidering many of my own positions and resulted in a personal renaissance of my own philosophical and political thought over the time I lived in the house. I felt genuinely welcome, respected and safe while I lived in the home and this stability was critical for me. It provided the support necessary for me to complete my bachelor’s degree as the first person in my family and to attain the personal stability that I and many generations before me lacked.
In my opinion, this living arrangement is critical to the culture of the University Campus and an essential service for other students, like me, who need additional support and a sense of community. The Co-op has been a safe harbor and vehicle for social mobility for decades. With the worsening housing crisis, the Students’ Co-op and other organizations like it are critical to demonstrate successful housing alternatives and to promote human flourishing. I am not sure what would have happened to me without the Students’ Co-op but I am confident that without it I would have fared worse and would have lacked the proper conditions to flourish and grow as a person. After graduating I moved out of the Co-op to live with my partner but I will always cherish the time I spent at the Co-op for the pivotal role it played in my life and for the friendships that I formed along the way.