In the world of software engineering, a full-stack developer has all the skills to see a coding project through from start to finish. In the world of Babson residence halls, a full-stack living and learning community brings together all the skills needed to create a 21st century business.
Babson’s full-stack community consists of eTower, a hub of entrepreneurship on campus founded in 2001; Community of Developers & Entrepreneurs, or CODE, a group of students interested in coding and technology; and theStudio, whose residents pursue a range of creative and artistic endeavors. The hope is that the groups’ close proximity—they occupy three successive floors of Van Winkle—will create synergies that inspire and enable entrepreneurial projects.
But the three communities didn’t start out as a joint venture. While eTower has long been a popular residential choice for students hoping to create businesses at Babson, CODE and theStudio are of considerably newer vintage. Both were launched in the fall of 2016, and both grew out of perceived needs on campus. Waseem Shabout ’19 and like-minded students founded CODE as a club, with the eventual goal of creating a tech-themed living community. He and others in CODE were fans of the eTower community, and when the time came to plan a residential space, says Shabout, “We requested that we be directly beneath eTower.”
At about the same time CODE was being formed, Michelle Cedillo ’19, who is serving as co-president of theStudio, sent her friend Julia Dean ’19 a message: “‘Hey, we should make an arts organization.’ We wanted a space with a purpose, to kind of get messy and make things.” Like Shabout, Dean and Cedillo founded a club, Create, in part to pursue a special-interest living community. Unlike CODE, theStudio didn’t request housing in a particular location. But its serendipitous placement near the other two made collaboration seem only natural.
Still, it took an apparently spontaneous remark to turn it into a cohesive community. Shabout recounts that he and some of the leaders of eTower and theStudio met one day early last spring to discuss plans for the semester over a tub of day-old brownies. “We were trying to put together a collaborative fundraising event between the three organizations. Then someone said, ‘It will be a full-stack event!’ and we all laughed.
“And then,” he continues, “we all kind of realized that’s exactly what Van Winkle was: a full-stack community. It was kind of a play on words, but it’s still relatively true.”
“You had technical, creative, and entrepreneurial people who just wanted to work together. It came about very organically,” says Rachel Pardue ’19, who is serving as eTower president this year.
The community, it appears, is conducive to entrepreneurship. Shabout and other members of CODE and eTower co-founded Jinn Tech, a startup consultancy, while living in Van Winkle, drawing on the resources that were literally all around them. “If I had a question about anything, whether it was to do with my business or my homework, I’d go upstairs, I’d go downstairs, and there was always someone willing to engage,” says Shabout.
Residents are hoping for more collaborations going forward. Says Pardue, “I think that this is going to be a really defining year for us coming together as a full-stack community.”—Jane Dornbusch