Dear Newly Admitted RC Students,

Welcome to the Residential College at the University of Michigan!

From the moment that you enter East Quad from 701 East University, you’ll notice that our building is not like other college dorms across the country. 

To your left is the RC Art Gallery curated by our own arts faculty and featuring the work of professional artists.  Just beyond the gallery is room 1423, affectionately referred to as "the Benz". The Benzinger Library classroom features walls of books - - available to you - - as well as comfortable couches and tiered foam seating for your classes. 

Downstairs of course, we have photography and pottery and art studios, as well as myriad music rehearsal spaces replete with pianos.  And you probably know, the drama department boasts its own modern theater, The Keene Theater.

My favorite place, however, is the East Quad Garden. Built in part with a generous gift from an RC alum, the EQ Garden has 15 raised beds where our students grow herbs and vegetables, salad greens, peppers, tomatoes, and one year, even okra.  We also have raspberry bushes and apple trees. The garden also serves as an outdoor classroom space, or just a place to read a book under the canopy of the Sycamore tree.

Each spring we hire a garden intern who manages the planting and watering, and in the fall the students from Eco and Food Forums gather for a harvest.  There’s always plenty of cider and donuts!

While this space serves an aesthetic purpose, it also helps to fulfill our experiential learning ideology. 

I teach food justice, environmental justice, and environmental activism and the garden gives us a hands-on social justice tool by incorporating our theoretical learning into opportunities to enhance our social compact. Most of the food grown in the garden is donated to the Maize & Blue Cupboard, a central campus “store” where students can access fresh food at no cost. 

In a world where climate disruption causes so many of us anxiety and uncertainty about what we can do, learning to grow our food translates into direct action.  

I’m passionate about environmental issues and I hope that you’ll give me the opportunity to talk more about what you can do now that you’re here!

Go Green, Go Blue!

Virginia Murphy
Faculty Director, East Quad Garden