Quarters — 2017 UP/Start Finalist

The spark for Quarters — a company whose objective is to easily connect alumni hosts with students seeking study abroad and intern housing — came when someone asked Diamond James ’16 (Social Design M.A.) if they could rent a room at her place for a quarter. That person, a student at James’ undergraduate alma mater, Northwestern University, was seeking housing for an internship placement in Washington, D.C.

James wasn’t able to help in that case, but the request reminded her of the informal, word-of-mouth housing she’d received seeking internships during her own college experience. As she explained, “I was inspired to create Quarters because I realized there wasn’t a formal option that would easily connect students to willing alumni that could accommodate housing needs. Quarters is that place of connection.”

Saying that she has “carried curiosity and the audacity to ask questions since I was a little girl,” James credits her time at MICA with helping her use those qualities to tackle important issues.

“As a master of arts candidate for Social Design, I learned the art of asking the better question,” she said. “In order to work in the space between social problems and social change, one must always have a critical curiosity about the world around us — to uncover how we can persevered and keep moving the needle on intractable issues. My time at MICA showed me how to frame my questions, problem solve more effectively and to design a better world.”

And with Quarters, James is seeking to use college networks to connect students with alumni to find safe and affordable short-term housing — allowing students to more easily afford internships and study abroad opportunities. What’s more, James says that Quarters also gives alumni a meaningful way to give back to their greater campus community while gaining an additional source of income.

“Students win, alumni win and universities are ultimately enriched as Quarters helps make access to a well-rounded college experience more equitable,” James said.

She hopes to launch a pilot program soon and is also exploring the logistics of having income earned from Quarters directly apply to the student loans of alumni who rent spaces to students.

Her immediate goal, however, is to get the word out. James noted, “I want to let as many alumni know as possible that they’ll be able to give back in a more meaningful way with Quarters. They’ll help meet housing demand. And I want to let current students and their parent know there is a viable solution to end their housing woes — coming soon!”