The Wagner Building in State College, Pa. on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023.

From waking up before the sun rises to leaving muddy equipment in the halls, freshmen in the Penn State Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program have the option to live in Pennypacker Hall’s Living Learning Community.

Director of Ancillary Services Jennifer Garvin said the space is an “outlier,” as it’s not a traditional LLC in the sense of having a dedicated academic program. Instead, it's a space where freshmen with similar routines and an “extra layer of requirements” can adjust to college life.

“Transitioning to the university can be hard," Garvin said. “And I think for any student being around people who may have similar interests, particularly a similar schedule, can really help with that adjustment.”

Pennypacker Hall is similar to other dorms — “physically” nothing is different other than a group of students living together who “get up really early” and are in the same program.

“In the past, students had some issues with their roommates,” Garvin said. “So we do try to keep them together because of their schedule in particular.”

Garvin said the ROTC housing has moved to different places on campus throughout the years, although it ended up in Pennypacker due to the “close proximity” to the Wagner Building.

Pennypacker Hall was renovated in 2018 to provide students with modern amenities, single-user bathrooms and a variety of lounges and study rooms. It’s also a residence hall for students not in the ROTC program.

The rooms granted for the ROTC LLC “varies” each year, although Garvin said they usually try to keep the first three floors open.

“We usually keep three floors for ROTC, but that will fluctuate just depending on the request that we get,” Garvin said. “Once we are filled and get requested later, we may not be able to honor every student who is interested.”

Rachel Subrani said living in Pennypacker Hall “creates a community” within the ROTC program.

When students go out and participate in ROTC activities, Subrani said they don’t feel “alone” because they’re in close proximity with their peers every day.

Subrani (junior-biobehavioral health) said she was able to make friends by living in Pennypacker Hall her freshman year. As a junior, she moved back in to work as a resident assistant.

“It was definitely beneficial [living in Pennypacker Hall] because I was able to make a lot of friends that were going through the same experiences I was,” Subrani said. “We were all waking up at 5 in the morning for [physical training] and all going to the same place.”

Subrani said an “observation” she made is that the friendships people make in Pennypacker Hall last throughout one’s time in the program.

East Halls are the closest dorms to ROTC facilities, and Subrani said those who live in North, South, West or Pollock typically have a “learning curve” of trying to “get into friend groups” and their “spot in the program.”

While living at different locations on and off campus requires an early commute to the ROTC facilities, Subrani said she’s able to wake up “15 minutes” before she has to be somewhere and still make it on time.

Pennypacker Hall isn’t just a place for ROTC students to live, but it’s a place for students to spend time with their peers outside of the classroom.

Subrani said one of her favorite memories of living in the dorm her freshman year was right after spring field training, when the ROTC students were exhausted and reminisced on their experiences in the field while enjoying pizza.

“[The RA] got a bunch of pizzas, and we were just sitting downstairs in the TV area — all of us just dead tired from the field training — and we were all joking around and telling stories about what we experienced,” Subrani said, “because it's an intense training, and it's fun to be able to sit around with people who went through the same things and be able to laugh about it.”

Ella Nibert is making memories of her own in Pennypacker as a current freshman in the ROTC program.

Nibert (freshman-industrial engineering) said Pennypacker is “definitely the most popular place for ROTC cadets to live.”

When students look into enrolling for the ROTC program, Nibert said the program suggests living in Pennypacker because “it's closer to everything,” and students “are more likely to be around kids who are in the same situations as you.”

While there’s nothing physically different with Pennypacker, Nibert said students are unlikely to see other dorms as busy at 5 a.m.

“You wake up, and you see kids running around the halls — all of the bathrooms are being occupied because everyone is trying to get ready — same thing after PT, everyone is rushing to the showers,” Nibert said.

Along with early mornings, military gear is “staggered” out in the halls after hikes in the mud.

With the ROTC program being rigorous in nature, living in Pennypacker provides modern amenities, close proximity to ROTC facilities and a “culture” of students with shared experiences.

“From the ROTC point of view,” Nibert said, “I think Pennypacker is the best place you want to live.”


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