House communities to cluster by location for Class of 2023

by Elizabeth Janowski | 8/16/19 3:10am

This fall, the Class of 2023 will be the first group of students to experience the latest development in the College’s four-year-old house community system. Each first-year residence hall will now correspond to a specific house community, according to associate dean of residential life and director of residential education Mike Wooten. 

All first-year members of Allen House will live in Wheeler and Richardson Halls; South House first-years will live in the Fayerweather dormitories; and West House first-years will live in the River cluster. School House and North Park House will share the Choates cluster, with North Park first-years occupying Brown Hall and School House first-years residing in Bissell, Cohen and Little Halls. Freshman members of the East Wheelock house community will live in McCulloch, Morton and Zimmerman Halls — three dormitories within the East Wheelock cluster.

For the past three years, freshmen have shared the same house community as other students on their floor. However, each first-year residence hall contained students from several different house communities across its floors. The only exception was the East Wheelock house community, in which first-year students lived in the East Wheelock cluster and shared buildings with upperclassmen.

Wooten stated that the idea to unify first-year residence halls each under a single house community had been a topic of conversation within the Office of Residential Life for several years. He added that assistant directors of residential education and house professors for each community encouraged the change throughout its planning. 

“Since the inception of the [house community] system, which is now in its fourth year, we’ve been asking how to integrate first-years into the larger house,” Wooten said. “This year presented a good opportunity to re-examine this question.”

House professor of West House Ryan Hickox expressed enthusiasm about the change, saying that there will be several advantages to the new structure of first-year housing over the previous model. Specifically, he said that placing students of the same house community in close proximity with one another will allow first-years to forge bonds within their house community early on in their college career. 

“We often had the problem that it was difficult for our first-year students to really get to know who was in their community with them and who they would be living with for the next three years,” Hickox said. “Having freshmen from the same house located in one place will really help with that.”

House professor of Allen House Janice McCabe echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the significance of house communities as another social network alongside student clubs and organizations.

“I think this’ll be great for promoting more programming and for communicating infrmation across the entire house community,” McCabe said. “I think this will be a good step toward creating a more full sense of community within Allen House overall.”

Wooten added that the change will allow for more house community-specific programming opportunities during a student’s first year. He expressed hope that by deepening first-years’ connections to their house community, the programming will decrease the disparity between the upperclassmen and first-year experiences. 

The locations for each house community’s first-year residence hall were determined primarily by the size of the communities and where they best fit, according to Wooten. For example, North Park will only occupy one dormitory because it has the smallest population of students out of the house communities. 

Given the particular challenges they present, first-year Living Learning Communities will continue to be organized into house communities by floor, Wooten noted. He said that he does not anticipate this model changing in the near future. 

Hickox said that he is excited to see the changes implemented upon the arrival of the incoming freshman class. He added that with the graduation of the Class of 2019, all current classes of Dartmouth students have matriculated after the introduction of the house community system. As a result, he hopes that the house community system will continue to become a more widely embraced aspect of student life at the College. 

“What I hope that we’ll see is that membership in a house community will become an increasingly important part of a student’s experience on campus,” Hickox said. “I think this is an opportunity for the whole house to get closer together, and I hope students will take advantage of that.”