Talent Development Scholars find a new place to call home on campus

The TD Achievement House is home to 29 scholars in its first year

KINGSTON, R.I. – Dec. 20, 2022 – Fe Bucasas of Providence (and before that, Minnesota and the Philippines) set her sights on going places when she came to the University of Rhode Island. The colorful variety of state license plates adorning the wall of her room in URI’s Talent Development Achievement House indicates that this is a young woman looking to go places. While she’s mapping her route, the Talent Development Achievement House has become the perfect spot for her to plan the next steps on her journey.

Bucasas is one of more than 1,000 current Talent Development Scholars studying at the University. URI’s TD Scholars come from every corner of Rhode Island, study in every college of the University and, after graduation, pursue careers all across the country. The program counts more than 4,000 scholars in its alumni base.

Many scholars are now finding a new place on campus to call home: the Talent Development Achievement House, located on Upper College Road. The sunny yellow building stands next to Newman Hall, the home of URI Admission, and is a welcoming beacon for visitors to the University and for scholars making it their home base this year.

Talent Development Scholars (and roommates) Fe Bucasas and Lessis Silverio are in the first cohort of students to live in the new Talent Development House and like what they’ve found there; they plan to return next year. (Photo courtesy of Fe Bucasas)

URI’s Talent Development program serves students of color and students from disadvantaged backgrounds, offering them a range of support services during their time at URI. The program grounds its core values in the University’s mission of enriching students’ lives through its land and sea grant traditions, with an ongoing commitment to respect, academic excellence, mental health and wellness, and scholar success (RAMS).

The Talent Development Achievement House opened in January 2022, fulfilling a long-held dream of establishing a dedicated residence facility for TD Scholars.

“This is home for alumni to come back to and for prospective students to see themselves,” Gerald Williams, Talent Development director, said at the building’s opening. “It sets the foundation for our next generation of TD Scholars and students.”

In the house, TD Scholars find the tools and the resources needed to succeed – bright light and windows, camaraderie with others, peace and quiet when that’s called for, and plenty of space for down time and studying. Residents invite classmates over for group projects in the lounge or basement; Associate Director Kristina Moyet can often be found in the downstairs lounge, meeting with scholars. There is also a TD advisor in the house and a college success coach on site for students, making a living and learning community that is convenient for students.

The nearly 11,000-square-foot, three-story Achievement House also includes a spacious recreation / fitness room with a bright and neat laundry room nearby. The large basement kitchen is a spot for community meals to augment the University meal plan, though the dining tables also make for a good study group space. Student groups can hold game or movie nights in the recreation area, and space is available for activities such as the summer peer mentoring group, career services and workshops, and staff training. After this year, the University will be looking at ways that the building can best serve the residents of TD Nation, including those living on campus and those who are commuting.

Built in 1935, the house at 22 Upper College Road was originally home to a fraternity, before becoming home to the University’s Women’s Center which has moved to the former GateHouse apartment on Quarry Road.

Along with 18 residential rooms, the house increases space on campus for Talent Development, expanding on the program’s headquarters in Taft Hall. “This advances our work to build community across campus and integrate into living and learning spaces,” says Moyet. While Taft is the program’s academic heart, the House is its community space.

The Achievement House opened in the spring with six residents and a resident assistant (also a TD Scholar); this fall, the house is nearing capacity with 29 students. To qualify to live in the house, students must meet academic requirements, including maintaining a 3.3 grade-point average. The house provides a hub for not only the residents but for the 1,000 TD Scholars across campus, about half of whom live on campus.

Residents say the house is truly a home, even in its first year, and that’s something that Frankie Minor, director of Housing & Residential Life, was hoping to achieve as a goal for the house. “Our goal is not just to provide students with a place to sleep at night, it’s to build a sense of community here.” He says that the TD Achievement House gives them the chance to do that and also connect to the mission of Talent Development. “We want to create opportunities.” He notes that Achievement is also part of the house’s name, saying, “We don’t only want the school’s TD Scholars to come here and simply attend; we want to see them succeed. The outgoing mayor of Providence is a TD graduate and we want our scholars to know that they, too, can achieve whatever they set their sights to.”

Scholars living in the house appreciate that they can find this common ground: many are first-generation college students from various parts of Rhode Island. “It’s peaceful here,” junior Fe Bucasas says. “Everyone communicates; there’s a respect for one another.”

The House gives physical form to a philosophy that has always been part of the Talent Development program – joining a community and making URI a new home.

With a busy schedule of classes and work in the Ram’s Den, Bucasas is often out of the house but finds it a peaceful refuge to return to at the end of her day. She lived in a large dorm last year but finds living in a smaller environment with her TD peers is more to her liking. She made the choice to try the new house last year with her roommate, also a TD student. “We wanted a smaller environment,” Bucasas says. “We looked at one another and said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s go first.’” She plans to return next year.

Bucasas says they initially wanted to join out of respect for the TD program. She was accepted to URI coming from Alvarez High School in Providence and takes her commitment as a TD Scholar seriously.

So far, it’s working out. “We really like the TD House,” Bucasas reports. “It’s us giving back to the program that is giving to us. I appreciate the program and want to give back. It’s not just the money, it’s a social commitment.”

Bucasas is rooming with Lessis Silverio, a sophomore from Cranston. The two met the summer before their first year at URI, in TD’s Summer Success program, and became fast friends. Now, two-and-a-half years in, their days and schedules are full; they stay in touch with their BeReal snaps. Both are film majors.

Coming from a small high school in Providence, Bucasas says the TD House has provided her with a small, comfortable niche with familiar faces in a large school. Bucasas says that students in TD all start from the same place and are on the same path, even if they have different goals and majors.

“Everyone here is very independent,” Bucasas says. Small groups connect in the kitchen at night; residents are cordial and respectful with one another. There is a protective feeling in the house, caring, an interest in equality at the one-on-one level. House residents look out for one another.

Bucasas also says the house makes her feel more connected to the Talent Development program overall. “It’s a good way to get to know others in the program.”

With only a small number of people living in the house at any given time, and all of them busy with classes and commitments, the overall vibe of the house is peaceful and quiet – and they like it that way.

Learn more about living in the TD Achievement House.