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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, June 14, 2024
The Echo

Swallow Robin: beyond the bathtubs

Smallest dorm expresses unique, welcoming traits

Tucked away on the far north side of campus sits the smallest, oldest, quirkiest and, perhaps, most mysterious of residence halls.

Some know the dorm by its famous tradition, “Swalloween,” others by the moon-shaped window that glistens at the top of the building and many by its notorious bathtubs.

Swallow Robin Hall is home to around 60-70 male and female students each year and boasts a comfortable family-like atmosphere.

“I think it’s just very welcoming and ‘the more, the merrier,’” Personnel Assistant (PA) Carolynne Winkle said. “It’s pretty low pressure in terms of the events that we do. Everyone is always invited but no one is ever required to come. So, I think it feels like a safe space for a lot of people.”

Swallow is unique in that most of the events and activities are planned and operated as a whole residence hall, instead of as a single wing or floor. 

The main lobby of the building, or “swabby” as Swallow residents call it, serves as a center for movie nights, game nights, chatter and events. Winkle describes the “swabby” as chaotic, unpredictable and predictable all at the same time.

“You can almost always find someone who’s willing to play a game, Mario Kart or a board game,” Winkle said. “People cook a lot in there, but it’s such a small space and everyone is wanting to be a part of it. You just don’t know what to expect. Will you get homework done down there? Probably not, but you will have a good time.”

Because Swallow is the smallest residence hall on campus, every few years, a student in the Master’s of Higher Education (MAHE) program at Taylor becomes the hall’s new hall director.

Each MAHE student who joins Swallow Robin works part-time as hall director, while also completing the necessary classes to earn their Master’s degree. 

In the fall of 2021, Hall Director Emma Sachsenmaier was welcomed into the Swallow community. 

At the beginning, she often found herself comparing her work performance to that of the full-time hall directors.

“Then I was like, wait, I only work part-time and I don't have the experience that they do,” Sachsenmaier said. “But I've grown a lot through having those challenges — to grow in a sense of confidence. It's just really fun to get to be in Swallow, like, they're going through school, I'm going through school.”

Being a student and hall director simultaneously is something that Sachsenmaier has had to learn how to navigate. 

This has been challenging in that when she’s really investing in Swallow, then she might be sacrificing her classwork and vice versa.

Despite these challenges, Sachsenmaier loves how tight-knit the Swallow community is and appreciates the opportunity to know each student that resides there because of the hall’s small size.

Through engaging in conversations and participating in various traditions and activities, Sachsenmaier has gotten to know and love Swallow and its community on deeper levels.

One tradition that is loved by both Swallow residents and the entire campus is the event “Copious Cookies.”

Samuel Morris Hall Director Josiah Peterson started this tradition in 2020 when he was in the MAHE program and serving as the Swallow Robin hall director.

To prepare for the event, Swallow residents gather in the “swabby” and begin to call family and friends, politely asking them to donate cookies. Winkle described the setting as a “call center” where students are scattered around calling everyone they know.

“And then for the next chunk of weeks, cookies are getting sent to us through the mail, like tons and tons of cookies,” Winkle said. “Or in person if people live close, they’ll just drop them off.”

On the date of the event, the hall members get together, move all the furniture in the “swabby” and set up all their cookies for students to come take.

Last year, they gathered around 3,000 total cookies to share with their fellow students.

“I think [“Copious Cookies”] gives people a really good idea of what Swallow is,” Sachsenmaier said. “We have something, and we want to share it with you just because.”

Other traditions that are enjoyed by the Swallow community each year include “Swalloween,” a murder mystery party, the iHop formal, “Swanksgiving” and fancy Fridays.

Sachsenmaier values Swallow’s spirit of inclusion. The dorm’s theme for this year is “make room,” which helps stress the idea that everyone has a place in Swallow. It’s made up of a wide variety of people with a wide variety of quirks and hobbies.

Students there form close relationships with one another despite their differences.

“What I really like about students in Swallow is that they don’t really make snap judgments about other people,” Sachsenmaier said. “They’re willing to get to know someone for who they are, not just appearance or first impressions.”

She hopes that students across campus will suspend judgment and get to know their peers first.

Through their leadership, Sachsenmaier and Winkle are striving to continue and strengthen Swallow’s reputation of being a place where everyone feels welcome and comfortable, regardless of their background.

Winkle wants the Taylor community to know that just because Swallow is secluded, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to engage with the rest of campus. Students are more than welcome to join Swallow residents in whatever they are doing or stop by for a visit.

“People just don’t know where we are or what we’re up to because it’s so small,” Winkle said.

Many people simply aren’t used to Swallow’s dorm culture because the cultures of other dorms such as Olson, Wengatz and Samuel Morris Halls are so different.

Dorm stereotypes often get in the way of relationships between students, and Sachsenmaier sees this as a result of closed-mindedness.

“There’s a lot of people in Swallow that could be in any residence hall, but they’ve chosen to be there,” Sachsenmaier said. “And part of it is that open mindedness.”