Breanne Grace stands in front of Maxcy College.

Building a community of learning in the International House at Maxcy College

New faculty principal Breanne Grace hopes to widen student perspectives

There’s no denying that college is a time of great change. Homecooked meals become Chick-fil-A sandwiches, new bonds form in classrooms and residence halls, and students’ lives fall into new patterns as they adapt to their changed environment. For the students living on-campus in the International House at Maxcy College, the change is especially pronounced: Not only are they adapting to college, they’re also adapting to living with people from different cultures throughout the world.

Breanne Grace, new faculty principal at Maxcy College, hopes to provide a supportive community that will promote learning and expand students’ perspectives as they settle in.

“I think college experiences in general introduce you to people who are from different areas, different social classes, different races and different backgrounds,” says Grace, an associate professor in the College of Social Work. “You learn to question your own assumptions about the ways in which you are raised, or why you believe what you do.

“And so, my hope is that when students have the opportunity to meet students from all over the world here in Maxcy, it gives them insight into new types of foods or new ways of living or new ways of studying, or new music — everything. It's just an opportunity to expand their understanding of the world a little bit.”

Students who live in the college’s living-learning community will experience all the benefits of a traditional on-campus living experience — but they will do so alongside other students with similar global interests, and with the opportunity to participate in unique experiences that will promote cross-cultural understanding. They will also have unique access to Grace’s own renowned expertise in international migration, humanitarian aid and refugee rights, as well as her global network of colleagues.

“Our mission is to take global things that exist here in Columbia and make them fully accessible, so that students don’t have to think about global as separate, but instead can think about it as part of their experience here at South Carolina,” Grace says.

Her focus is to promote both learning and fun among the college’s students. She will continue its visiting fellows program, which brings professional guests to the college to share their expertise. She also hopes to create “social rituals” for the students living there — be it morning coffees, a weekly evening of music, or even lemonade and cornhole on the Horseshoe.

More than anything, she wants to create a strong sense of community among the college’s students.

“We think of the word ‘academic’ as books and classrooms, but I think of ‘academic’ as how do we exist in the world and what are the things that we can learn about through research in order to facilitate better living, whatever that might be,” Grace says. “Whether that's more curiosity, more ethical living, or more efficacious business transactions. And so, I think of my job in Maxcy College as creating spaces where students can explore those ideas and reach out and have outside the classroom space where they have opportunities to ask questions and grow.”

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