Living in Community
Founded in 2013, the Edwards Collective of Mathey College is a group of approximately 35 students who have applied to live together in a residential community that celebrates the humanities and creative arts. The Edwards Collective takes its name from its home in Edwards Hall, where the Collective occupies the third and fourth floors with a total of 31 single rooms and 2 two-room doubles. This physical proximity affords members regular opportunities for informal discussion, critique, and collaboration, while organically encouraging students to forge lasting bonds with one another.
Edwards Hall, home of the Collective.
The “Nook,” which the group established on the third floor of Edwards Hall, is host to impromptu discussions and art sessions throughout the week. A cozy and inviting lounge on the first floor of Edwards also hosts special events and informal gatherings for the Collective.
Two graduate students are selected to be in residence with the Collective each year. Referred to as Resident Graduate Students (or, more commonly, RGSs), they assist students in planning trips, connecting with faculty, and articulating the significance of their activities. They also host regular brunches in Edwards Hall, where students can grab coffee and a bite to eat while filling each other in on their week. Over the years it’s proven valuable for community building and as a way for the RGSs to keep up with any concerns or needs the Collective may have.
Beginning in its inaugural year, students in the Collective have organized and participated in events that bring students, faculty, artists, and performers together to discuss topics and projects connected to the arts and humanities. Whether talking with Princeton faculty like Brian Herrera (Theater) or Michael Dickman (Creative Writing) about their works, or having an informal dinner conversation with journalists like Janet Malcolm (the New Yorker), a centerpiece of the Edwards Collective has involved interactions between faculty, artists, and students in spaces beyond the classroom. In many cases, students in the Collective would attend a performance together (such as Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya”) and convene the next day for a discussion with the play’s director (in this case, Professor of English Robert Sandberg). The opportunity to talk about art and creative interpretation — particularly among students with a diverse range of interests and expertise — is one of the cornerstones which binds this remarkable group together.
Members of the Collective have attended numerous concerts and exhibits — such as “Cosi fan tutte” at the Met, Carol Bove installations at MoMA, poetry readings at Labrynth bookstore, and museums such as the Whitney and American Museum of Natural History. Students work together to stay abreast of rich opportunities on campus as well (such as film screenings, faculty readings, and student performances) and let other students know about events of interest in the Princeton campus community.
The Collective also meets intermittently throughout the semester for dinners (often with faculty or other special guests in attendance). Members of the Collective usually receive a book at the beginning of the year, and in the past there have been opportunities to invite the authors to campus for a discussion of their writing over a meal.
A final centerpiece of the development of community in the Edwards Collective has been two annual, off-campus retreats held during fall and spring breaks. The group has traveled to places like Cape May, Bay Head, Croton-on-Hudson, and the Catskills. During these three-day excursions members of the Collective work on independent projects, discuss pieces-in-progress, and enjoy shared opportunities for reflection, cooking, and intellectual exchange.