The Village Tree Experience comes to a close
By Danielle Barnes | Contributor
Haakonsen Hall will not be a residence hall for Village Tree Program participants next year due to students’ lack of interest in the program. Instead it will be considered for possible off-campus housing next fall.
The Village Tree Program is being discontinued next year due to various reasons, including lack of funds, miscommunication and recruiting. Haakensen Hall, affectionately known as “The Haak,” is tucked away between English Hall and the intramural fields at the southern edge of campus.
Inside those four walls, Taylor’s first ever Living Learning Community called The Village Tree Experience has been a housed. The program has existed for three years, with this year being its last. It was created by Jennifer Moeschberger, director of honors programming and The Village Tree Experience.
According to Jennifer Moeschberger, the program will close because no money is budgeted for the program. “We did hope for it to be a long-term thing,” she said.
Recruiting has been a challenge for the program, partly due to the hefty commitment it takes for students to live in an unfamiliar place on campus. Scott Moeschberger, assistant professor of psychology, claims that many students interested in the program did not want to leave their dorms and live in The Haak for two semesters.
“We had a lot of people who were interested in a (single) semester, but many did not want to give up a whole year,” Scott Moeschberger said.
Another factor in the decision to discontinue the use of The Haak for The Village Tree involves program information, which was misunderstand by students. Many students were unaware of the qualifications of living in The Haak and being a part of The Village Tree Experience.
For example, many students didn’t know that they weren’t required to have an Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) minor. Although The Haak will no longer house the program, the OVC minor will continue to exist.
One of the Haak’s possible futures could be an off-campus housing option. This means that it will follow the rules and regulations of all residence halls. It will have a PA, open house hours and, most likely, be an all-girls apartment. Lori Slater, housing coordinator, opened this idea to juniors and seniors who attended the off-campus housing meeting.
“My understanding is that The Haak is not a guaranteed housing facility next year but if it were, it would be similar to the apartments,” Slater said.
The Haak housed Village Tree students from different majors such as Sustainable Agriculture, Public Health, PPE and Art who all shared a common interest: orphans and vulnerable children.
Senior sociology major Wes Morgan values the knowledge he gained from the program. “Being a part of this program has impacted me in broadening my knowledge about orphans and vulnerable children,” Morgan said. “I used to just see problems as an outsider, but I’m able to get the deeper knowledge of its problems and solutions.”
As The Village Tree program comes to a close, it will remain in the hearts of those who were involved.
“I lived with nine people so we were able to establish a really close friendship, unlike any other dorms,” said sophomore public health major Ruhama Mergia. “I will miss the people that I’ve became close with and the peacefulness of The Haak.”