For the first time next year, Lantana in Manzanita Park will be a special housing theme dorm where students can pre-assign to become “creative catalysts.” They will work with the Stanford Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school) to create new and imaginative ways to cultivate community in upperclass dorms.
While upperclass dorms have dorm events such as ski trip, Chris Flink, Stanford consulting associate professor, Graduate School of Business lecturer and Resident Fellow of Lantana, said that these events eventually become boring and students stop attending, leading to a weaker dorm community after freshman year. Flink believes the new theme will allow for students to create new upperclass experiences that are not only designed by them, but also for them.
“There’s an opportunity to think about what the upperclass experience might ideally be,” Flink said. “It’s not the wonder of your freshman year, but I think that’s a shame. I think there’s an opportunity for it to be as remarkable and extraordinary as your freshman year but in an entirely different and distinctly upperclass way.”
Students who are pre-assigned to Lantana will be required to lead a one-unit directed study project in collaboration with Residential Education (ResEd) and the d.school where they will explore new and creative ways to cultivate community in upperclass dorms through unique dorm programming and communal activities, rituals and outings.
These “creative catalysts,” as the students will be called, will be able to prototype their ideas in the Lantana residence, where non pre-assigned students can help brainstorm, provide input and experience these new ideas. Because these activities are designed by students, Flink hopes this will lead to greater attendance and a more substantial dorm community.
“What comes out of that, hopefully, is a great learning experience for the creative catalysts and the other residents in the dorm who participate in various ways,” Flink said. “It’s a learning experience around their own creative capacities and their way to approach problems, which will also create a bunch of experiences in the dorm that that are more interesting, appropriate, memorable and enjoyable for residents, designed for them, by them.”
“The sky’s the limit,” said Nina Church ’16, one of the Residential Assistants for Lantana next year. “It truly seems like this staff, the Flinks and everyone who’s expressed interest in the creative catalyst program so far are willing to think big and work hard. This combination can only lead to a fun, supportive environment that I’m super excited to help create and even more excited to get to live in.”
“How cool will it be to have dorm meetings redesigned in a way that gets everyone excited to go to them each week?” she added. “Or maybe makes it a little easier to get to know the amazing people we’re living with?”
One of the strengths of the new program is that it creates a residential learning experience. Living alongside other project members creates a unique learning experience that is distinct from the typical classroom experience.
“If you took a class, one of the great things about it is you’ll be on a small team and get to know your teammates, and it’s a great bonding experience and fun,” Flink said. “To do that here in the dorm where one of our important goals is to build community and get to know each other and have different perspectives come together – it’s a double. We get both of those kind to come together in a very natural way.”
Non pre-assigned students living in the dorm will still be able to engage with design thinking, with general dorm programming tilted towards design, creativity and creative confidence.
Because next year will be the first year of the program, Flink acknowledges that many aspects of the program are unknown. He explained that he is eager to come up with new ways of thinking, even if it means potential failure. Showcased on his wall are many assorted models and portrayals of the letter F, often associated with failure – a crucial component of the creative process that Flink embraces.
“We’re on a journey,” Flink said. “ I think there’s lots of potential for where it could go, and I suspect a lot of learning will come in the first year.”
“I’m optimistic that giving them an more agency to design their experience is the right,” he added. “If the freshman year experience serves it up on a silver platter, this is one where you’re designing it by students, for students.”
Contact Jeremy Quach at jquach ‘at’ stanford.edu.