The first shot hit senior Tara Ung in the stomach.
The next one came from the Nerf pistol placed in her hand, while Austin Coe, the freshman assailant, braced himself for retaliation. Plastic lightsabers materialized from another corner of the room, and suddenly the students in the Koon Residence lobby found themselves attacked by a flurry of foam weaponry. Within minutes, the whole men’s dormitory erupted in flailing lightsabers, foam swords, and flying projectiles.
By all signs, Koon is no longer a women’s dorm — and its 24 residents, freshmen through seniors, have bonded quite well.
“Everybody already knows each other,” freshman Paul Esposito said.
A women’s residence since 2014, Koon became a men’s dorm again this year to accommodate a greater number of freshmen men, said senior Reuben Blake, Koon’s head resident assistant. Blake and his RA team are already forming a close-knit culture among the men, who affectionately refer to themselves as “Dawgs.”
“My phone now autocorrects ‘dogs’ to ‘D-A-W-G-S,’” Blake said.
Blake kicked off the year for his residents with a night of games and a surprise trip to Dutch Uncle in Coldwater for doughnuts.
“We didn’t tell them where we were going,” Blake said. “We were like, ‘Everybody jump in the car, we’re leaving, and we’ll be back in an hour.'”
The night was more than just a doughnut run — it contributed to the residents’ close-knit community, Blake said. The next day, he woke up to a horrible cold and residents’ social media posts praising the dorm ‘s RAs for their efforts to welcome the freshmen.
“I had guys text me and come to me personally and shake my hand and say, ‘Thank you for all the planning you put into this, because it really showed and we can tell that you as an RA team love us,'” Blake said.
Ung, a frequent visitor to the dorm, noted a strong sense of comradery among the residents.
“Reuben was very focused on creating a community that was its own thing,” she said. “He had a lot of traditions in mind that he wanted to do with the guys.”
Blake is assisted by sophomore RAs Nick Uram and Luke Woltanski, as well as his roommate, senior Mark Harrison. Though not an official RA, Harrison plays a major role in leading the freshmen, organizing a Bible study and “manly movie nights.”
The freshmen are contributing to the dorm’s culture, too: freshman Noel Schroeder coined the terms “Top Dawgs” and “Under Dawgs” for the respective halls, and Esposito brought a poker set to campus, assisting Blake in “masculinizing” the dorm with board games and mock weaponry. Esposito said their newest addition was the foosball table a pair of Koon Dawgs picked up off the curb for free.
In the lobby, a drawing of a pipe-smoking pup, captioned “Koon Dawgs,” replaced a picture of a “Think Spring” bunny on a whiteboard.
“We know that we want it to be a place that people enjoy and want to be proud of,” Harrison said.
The speed of Koon’s growth as a community impressed Woltanski, who lives downstairs with the Under Dawgs.
“All the freshmen are really close, and with the sophomores, too,” he said. “Everyone melded together pretty well.”
For older students like Harrison and Woltanski, living in Koon is quite a change from life in larger dorms like Simpson or Galloway. Unlike the recently renovated dorms, Koon has community bathrooms and no formal kitchen.
“We don’t really have a kitchen, and our lobby is very small,” Blake explained. “We have a sink and a microwave. And a toaster.”
The dorm’s halls aren’t closed off by doors, allowing residents to move more freely throughout the two floors, which Harrison noted has assisted in building community.
“We try to put together events, even if it’s just going out to eat to get together with each other,” Schroeder said. “We’re all looking out for each other.”