Communities of Thought

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Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | | 215-898-6460December 19, 2011

Dorm is a four-letter word rarely used at Penn. That’s because the University’s 11 College Houses are more than residential halls for socializing, studying and sleeping. They’re academic hubs, too.

At Penn, students can apply to live at a College House and participate in one of 40 different themed residential programs offered to undergraduates.  Small communities of students in each program live on designated floors or clusters of rooms within a House. Programs range from the popular Freshman Experience at Harrison House to the Study of Infectious Diseases at Ware, from Mentors at Riepe to the Arts House at Harnwell.

This fall, in an effort to increase student involvement in the programming process, Penn's Office of College Houses & Academic Services invited students to submit proposals for new themed programs, with strong support from the Provost's Office.

Three programs were approved: Women in Computer Science, Integrated Living and Jewish Cultural Studies. The programs will be offered in the 2012-13 academic year. 

Sue Smith, CHAS associate director of communications, said that writing the proposals encouraged students to think like faculty.

“There’s a syllabus, suggested texts.  It’s as though they were planning a course,” she said.

Leslie Delauter, CHAS director of college house academic programs, agreed.

“That’s the pleasure of College House life. Faculty, staff and students all interface as neighbors and learn from each other in an informal setting,” she said.

College junior Meir Dardashti proposed the Jewish Cultural Studies program in Rodin College House to foster dialogue and understanding between program members and the broader Rodin community. Planned activities will include a trip to the Museum of American Jewish History, service projects, lectures and “Food for Thought Dinners.”

Junior Gabriela Moreno-Cesar and sophomore Trisha Kothari proposed the Women in Computer Science Program for Kings Court English College House to provide women computer science students a nurturing environment. 

"We want to empower them with workshops, mentoring, faculty dinners, field trips and each other's ideas," Moreno-Cesar said.

College freshman Igor Baran, a Benjamin Franklin Scholar in the Integrated Studies Program of Riepe College House, proposed the Integrated Living Program for Harrison.

He envisions the program appealing to students with the shared passion of liberal arts, who love to “talk Plato after dinner for three hours.”

Applications for College House themed residential programs will be accepted beginning Jan. 11.  Full program descriptions are at