Colgate Announces New Commons Co-Directors for 2023–24

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Brown and Hancock Residential Commons at Colgate University will both welcome new co-directors in the 2023–24 academic year. Laura Festine, director of university grants and sponsored research, will become a new co-director of Brown Commons, and Lyosha Gorshkov, PhD, director of LGBTQ+ Initiatives, will join Hancock Commons.

Festine fills the role held by inaugural Brown Commons co-director Mary Simonson, associate professor of film and media studies and women’s studies and Daniel C. Benton ’80 Endowed Chair in arts, creativity, and innovation.

“I welcome Laura and Lyosha as new commons co-directors, and I thank them for their willingness to participate in a program that has become an important part of the undergraduate experience at Colgate,” says Vice President and Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin II. “I also want to thank Mary for all of the work she put into establishing Brown Commons. As she finishes the sixth year in this role, we acknowledge a debt of gratitude — for her energy, creativity, and commitment to our students. She has been instrumental in helping to shape this program.”

Festine earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from St. Lawrence University and her MS in information science from the University at Albany. After serving as a research and instruction librarian at Hamilton College, she joined the Colgate staff, first in annual giving, then in corporate, foundation, and government relations. Festine was named director of university grants and sponsored research in July 2022. 

Gorshkov holds a PhD in political science from Perm State University (Russia). Prior to being appointed director of LGBTQ+ initiatives at Colgate in 2021, Gorshkov served as a tenured faculty member at Perm State University; care manager at the Alliance for Positive Change (New York); visiting scholar at Indiana University (Bloomington); and assistant director of the Pride Center and Women’s Center at Slippery Rock University (Pennsylvania).

Colgate launched the Residential Commons program in 2014 with Ciccone Commons — soon followed by Dart-Colegrove, Hancock, and Brown commons. The Third-Century Plan provides a roadmap to expand the program with the creation of a fifth commons and the development of new initiatives to deepen their connection with faculty. 

The commons create a living-learning community that respects and builds on tradition and exposes students to an intellectually rich residential experience. The commons also provide every student with a foundational community from the first day on campus, help build class unity, and cultivate an affinity for the University. Each is led by a pair of directors, selected from among the faculty and staff, who work closely with the Office of the Vice President and Dean of the College and the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty.

“The commons began as a great idea,” says Provost and Dean of the Faculty Lesleigh Cushing. “During the past six years, that idea has become a lived reality at Colgate. The inaugural commons directors did a tremendous job laying the foundations, and we are building on that work, continuing to develop our sense of what the Residential Commons can become.”

One of the great advances of the program has been the pairing of faculty with staff from across the University as co-director teams. “I think the commons are stronger for being connected to the work of colleagues across the campus,” Cushing says.

Gorshkov acknowledges the responsibility. “We are entrusted in supporting students to find joy in day-to-day living experiences, to learn from each other, and to thrive in a diverse community,” Gorshkov says. “I am stepping in this role with hope to become one of the navigators that can assist students in mapping their personal journeys in this lifetime quest.”

Gorshkov will work alongside Courtney Young, university librarian and professor in the University Libraries, who will continue in her current role as co-director in Hancock Commons. Festine will be joined in Brown Commons by Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Frank Frey, who has served as co-director of Hancock Commons for the past two years. 

“Colgate students already enjoy the best classroom experience with this teaching faculty,” says Festine. “I look forward to seeing that continue outside of the classroom — making friends, nurturing a passion, finding community. I truly believe that we have everything in place for students to have their own interesting, fun undergraduate years.”