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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, April 12, 2024
The Echo

Off-campus housing retains intentional community

Seniors value intentionality and authenticity

If there are two words Taylor is known for, they are these: intentional community. 

You probably heard this phrase long before you stepped foot on campus. While on visits, many prospective students have the opportunity to attend chapel in Rediger, stay the night in the residence halls and watch the antics of Sammy unfold during dinner in the DC. 

All of these instances revolve around the spaces provided on campus, which makes perfect sense. Community starts to form when students bond over sacred memories, often bound to the physical places where they made them.

For Ansley Kary, Mitch Renbarger and Mallory Robertson, intentional community looks very different this year. These three seniors reflect on the benefits and challenges of pursuing community while living off campus and what they learned about community during their years in the residence halls. 

Renbarger lives in an apartment about 10 minutes away in Gas City. When asked to consider what intentional community will look like this year.

“It’ll definitely be harder because it is not built into my schedule or my housing,” Renbarger said. “So it’s going to be a focus of mine.” 

Previously, Renbarger lived in Swallow Robin before moving to Sammy II. For most of his time on campus, intentional community seemed woven into the varied traditions that Renbarger would preserve with his floormates. As he got older, though, relationships needed more than pure amusement to maintain a connection.

“Intentional community has changed into something that, for me, requires authenticity to the community that is being built,” Renbarger said. 

Kary lives within walking distance, a few blocks away, in an old, renovated church. While on campus, she lived in English, but now the rest of her roommates are a close-knit group hailing from Olson. 

Kary’s view of community now echoes Renbarger’s. 

“It’s more about the authentic community that I’ve created over the past four years,” Kary said. 

It took more than just circumstance for her to become such good friends with a group who lived in a completely different residence hall. 

While she is excited to live off campus this year, Kary admits that the proximity to her close friends while living in a dorm gave them the time and space to grow close.  

Intentionality began with where she was placed as an underclassman: 3rd South English. Kary acknowledges that her wingmates developed a shared personality and really rallied around that. 

One of Kary's roommates, Robertson, is grateful for the opportunity to live off-campus this year due to a heavy workload. Her student teaching placement means the majority of her time is spent away from campus in a classroom, meaning life in a dorm would be hectic, and she’d be unable to make most of the events. 

“It has been really nice for me to be able to have my own space now,” Robertson said. “But I will miss the community Olson was able to give me.” 

For these three seniors, it’s a wrestling match, acknowledging that community can just happen when you’re at a place like Taylor but recognizing the focused effort it is to form friendships you maintain for life.

When asked to give advice to underclassmen looking to join in on intentional community, these seniors had experienced advice. 

“I would say don’t take your wing for granted, because there are so many things to get out of that community,” Robertson said. “But now, looking back, it would have been good if I was comfortable looking for relationships outside of my wing.” 

Spaces around campus, shared traditions passed on through the years and floor relics provide a lot for community to form around. Taylor as an institution is intentional about honoring special circumstances like these as students pass through. 

However, the word authentic rings true and seems to aptly describe the friends that these three off-campus students hold dear. It will take true, focused effort from individuals to build long-lasting friendships. 

“I love Taylor and I came here for community,” Renbarger said. “But there needs to be authenticity behind that intention, because Taylor does some of it for you, but it can’t do all of it for you.”