The Columns

Meet the ‘Mayor’ of the Upper-Division Village Diana Banks, ‘17, fills us in on her actual title (although we are just going to run with “mayor”), the hot tub situation over there, and the awesome sense of community that makes the Upper Division Village a pretty sweet place to call home.

— by on December 2nd, 2016

“Everyone has been flexible and respectful of their neighbors, and it’s made for an easy and fun start to the year.”

— Diana Banks

Diana BanksDiana Banks

Diana Banks ’17 is a veteran RA and three-year resident of Graham Lees Dormitory. As a senior, this is the farthest “off-campus” she has ever lived, and for Diana, it’s been a wild ride that was well worth it. Her official title is “Assistant Head CA for The Village,” (NOT Assistant to the Head CA, Matt Carl ‘17) and her duties include helping Matt with any issues that arise at The Village, as well as being directly responsible for residents in two buildings and “coordinating the team of Village CA’s to distribute information and serve as a liaison between Student Affairs and the Staff in The Village.”

Additional duties include coordinating with the administration to be able to make life in The Village as pleasant as possible, and answering all the questions that come with the brand-new space. “How to we make the showers hotter, can we change the hours of the dining facilities, is there a Bizhub up here, what’s the word on hot tubs, hammocks, fire pits, and flags? I’m the one who works on getting these answers, and tries to make sure that all voices are included and heard when there are different needs and preferences to account for.” (P.S. Pretty sure it was a no on the hot tubs. Sad.)

Banks has her own residents to look after in addition to keeping the rest of The Village in check, but three years of RA-ing means that these lucky few get the slightly more personalized care that Banks has perfected. “I’ll be a resource to them, when they need it, and I’ll also be there to make sure everyone is keeping that ‘neighborly’ vibe alive and well. That means health and safety inspections, energy checks, but also just personal check-ins — how are you doing, as a person? As a student? Is the roommate situation smooth so far? Have you been on this hike, because I know you love hiking and this is a great one!”

The mystery of what The Village would be like once it was completed might have prevented a meeker individual from taking up the mantle of mayor, but Banks isn’t one for meekness. “As the new third-year housing project started to take shape, there was a lot of conversation around how it would feel, what it would look like, and what it might mean for the junior class, our campus, and our community at large. Nobody knew what this would do to the academic environment or the social dynamic; it was an enormous investment with incredible opportunity, and I felt that the way this space was used in its inaugural year would necessarily set the tone for years to come.”

Banks has had an instrumental role in the development of the lifestyle up there, from coordinating s’mores nights to hosting speakers and planning birthday parties. “Some students have even decided to kick-start some instrumental changes within The Village itself, and their CA supported them through their meetings with the appropriate deans and administrators so that their ideas were heard by the right people.”

Her favorite part(s)? That’s hard to pinpoint. They range from the little things like “the porches and the balconies, as well as the kitchens. People sit out to talk on their porches, watch field hockey games from their balconies, and individualize their front door area with all kinds of furniture and decorations. Even the outdoor seating between the civic buildings — you just can’t beat that view.”

She is quite a fan of the kitchens in particular: “The kitchens are amazing, and my own kitchen is (hands-down) my favorite room in the apartment. While cooking is something I’ve always loved to do, the kitchens up here are a place where people get together — for dinner parties, to hang out, to study at the counter tops — it’s nice to have a space where people can congregate. Kitchens are the natural place for that, so it’s nice to have good ones!”

The biggest thing that Banks loves, however, has been the sense of community that has formed as a result of these amazing new facilities. “Everyone has been so excited and on board with the fact that we’ll all be figuring this space out together; everything is new, and things change every day — it’s nice to live with a community who’s just interested to see and learn about the changes rather than one that complains about the kinks and roadblocks that come up along the way. Everyone has been flexible and respectful of their neighbors, and it’s made for an easy and fun start to the year.”

They’ve avoided craziness (for now) but when everyone was still trying to figure out what constituted a “Village-Appropriate Move” (in Banks’ words), “there were some interesting animals/pets that were floating around up here, and some creative porch setups that, to a certain extent, were definitely admirable (although not really the best idea).” Diana would classify the fire pit up there as crazy  – crazy awesome!

It’s truly the community, though, that makes The Village a special place. Students living there now always do their part to be neighborly (whether that means keeping noise levels in check, clearing garbage from porches, or coming out to the green space or grills to hang out with neighbors) and even students who don’t live there are feeling the effects. “I think it’s done a lot of good for the community beyond the junior class as well, and sports attendance at the fields nearby have seen a lot more traffic.” Current inhabitants have embraced life in a new space that they are lucky enough to call their own, and the pride of “ownership” shines through in the way that everyone respects each other and their townhouses or apartments. “It’s still a little bit of a spectacle, with students, faculty, alumni, and even board members still touring and visiting all of the time, but I think the residents up here are happy to show off a little; and having that ownership of your space goes a long way towards people taking care of it, and holding each other accountable for doing the same.”

Banks, in addition to her one-year term as “mayor” of The Village, is also a member of the LEAD Team working to manage and design the LEAD Program, and the president of Slow Food W&L (which perhaps explains her love of kitchens). She’s a co-captain for the climbing team here, leads trips as key staff for the Outing Club, and is a member of the student-run team that is responsible for putting on Friday Underground. So, take a bit on inspo from Banks and get involved here! The Upper Division Village is just one (more) small reason that W&L is an amazing place to call home, so soak up every second!

Story by Blair Dewing ‘17