“Something that I’ve realized I truly enjoy doing is building community,” says Topher Castaneda ’20 of Los Angeles.
Which makes Castaneda a great fit among the front-line community builders at Bates, the college’s Residence Life staff.
This year, Castaneda is a Residence Coordinator team leader. He’s in charge of six Junior Advisors who, in turn, work with groups of first-years in their residences known as First Year Centers. He has three first-year residences in his portfolio: Clason House, Milliken House, and Frye House.
Video by Theophil Syslo
“Being so far away from home, I’ve found ways and places to help structure some sort of community around myself, but also around other people who identify as me,“ says Castaneda.
“I’m first-gen, I’m queer, and I’m Latinx. How do I build community for those people, but include more stories in the narrative? One really good way is through Res Life.”
“A really big thing when building community is making sure that people feel heard.”
Castaneda taps into a powerful and fundamental way to forge community: “Stories are really important because they connect people,“ he explains.
“A really big thing when building community is making sure that people feel heard, and people are also understanding where you’re coming from — what your background is, your culture, and what your norm is.”
His Res Life work “has been just awesome,” says Castaneda. And that’s partly because, again, of the human connections. “You get to meet so many different people that you wouldn’t otherwise get to meet at Bates.”
An environmental studies major, Castaneda devoted his summer to supporting community in a different way. Working with Holly Ewing, Christian A. Johnson Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, he collected water samples from the local municipal water source, Lake Auburn, as part of research into protecting drinking water quality for the Twin Cities.