poling hall

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is introducing two new “Living-Learning Communities” to the Corvallis campus this fall that will center on the experiences of Indigenous people and those with black and African American identities.

“OSU has a vested interest in equalizing student success for all students. Investing in communities that center the experiences of black and Indigenous peoples allows for more focused support for and knowledge of these communities,” said Teresita Alvarez-Cortez, director of Diversity Initiatives & Programs with University Housing & Dining Services. “Students have specifically vocalized the need for these communities and are excited at the prospect of these communities.”

Living-Learning Communities (LLCs) are academic programs that collaborate with campus residential communities on campus to bring together students with the same academic focus and help them build relationships with faculty and advisors. In addition, University Housing & Dining Services holds events in the communities related to their areas of interest.

These are the first Living-Learning Communities at OSU focused on the experiences of ethnic cultural communities. Currently, Living-Learning Communities range from specific disciplines like engineering and business, to shared passions, such as environmental activism and outdoor activities.

The new Living-Learning Communities center on the experiences of Indigenous people and those with black and African American identities, and have partnerships with several cultural centers on campus. Both communities will be located on the first floor of Poling Hall, a residence hall in the center of campus. The programs are open to all students, regardless of identity.

The munk-skukum Indigenous Living-Learning Community offers a place for students to find community, explore cultural identity and learn more about the lands on which they will be residing. The name “munk-skukum” means “to strengthen” in chinuk wawa, an Indigenous language originating as a pidgin trade language in the Pacific Northwest.

“When we speak about Indigenous communities as a focus, we are specifically talking about the Indigenous people of the Americas and Pacific Islands, while also balancing the integral responsibility we have to supporting an understanding and respect of tribal sovereign nations,” said Luhui Whitebear, the Native American Longhouse Eena Haws assistant director, who is leading the munk-skukum group.

The Nia Black Scholar Living-Learning Community offers a space for students with a shared interest in centering black people and people of the African diaspora. Nia allows students to build strong community, explore racial identity and understand what it means to be black and African American in Oregon.

Nia, one of seven Nguzo Saba Kwanzaa principles, means “to make our collective vocation the building and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.”

Nia Black Scholar Living-Learning Community aims to create a stronger sense of community with black and African American students, to cultivate student leadership and involvement and to explore the history of back and African American people in Oregon and beyond.

“We welcome all students,” said Dorian Smith, coordinator of Black Student Access and Success, who is leading the Nia Black Scholar Group. “We will focus on centering people from the African diaspora in our curriculum and programming in an engaging way. I think it will be engaging for anyone, because black history is American history. We are looking to support students holistically by creating a stronger sense of community and helping with academic and personal development for anyone that stays on our floor.”  

Participants in both communities will live with students of shared or similar interests, attend the Educational Opportunities Program Bridge orientation, and receive academic support.

Participants in both communities will attend an orientation offered by OSU’s Education Opportunities Program and benefit from a partnership with OSU’s seven cultural resource centers that will provide experiential learning and community engagement opportunities.

For more information: https://uhds.oregonstate.edu/housing/living-learning-communities


General OSU

About Oregon State University: As one of only three land, sea, space and sun grant universities in the nation, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 36,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, marine research center in Newport, OSU Portland Center and award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.

Story By: 

Theresa Hogue, [email protected]


Teresita Alvarez-Cortez, 541-737-8268; [email protected]

Dorian Smith, 541-737-4181; [email protected]

Luhui Whitebear, 541-737-9036; [email protected]

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