A liberal arts college seeks to instill in its students an appreciation for the joys of intellectual life and, in the broadest sense, engage students in the life of the mind. This mission should be ubiquitous in the interactions among members of the community and throughout the physical spaces that house those encounters. A vibrant intellectual life should be evident both in the formal classroom and in the residential environment.
The College House system offers faculty and students the opportunity to create some of those chance encounters and informal moments that spark students' potential and engage their intellectual imaginations. Heads of House create events that bring faculty, students and professional staff together to think and read. These activities enable students to use what they learn in the formal academic program to inform daily discussions and interactions.
The House environment integrates thoughtful deliberation and intellectual exploration into students' daily lives. This continual engagement forms habits of thought and analysis that will serve our students throughout their professional and personal lives.
College Houses are places where the arts of democracy are learned and leadership is incubated. Within broad College guidelines, students govern a College House. Heads of House and House Advisers guide and teach the students as they experience the challenges of leading others, negotiating agreements and resolving conflicts.
Students will participate in constitutional conventions that create a system of self-governance and lay the foundation for transforming the residence halls into College Houses. These constitutional conventions will design a system of student governance and the means through which the House will interact with the rest of the College.
Within Houses students will elect leaders, participate on committees, attend "town meetings," craft standards of behavior, and resolve disputes. In other words, they will experience leadership and learn the arts of democracy.
College Houses are connected communities where all students can find a place at the College. In the Houses we find close relationships among faculty, students and administrators. College Houses offer students opportunities to gather informally with faculty and other students to explore ideas, or simply have fun.
The Houses include residential first-year seminars. Members of the Houses form teams that participate in intramural and recreational sports. The residents and their advisers also conduct a New Student Orientation that introduces new students to the culture and traditions of the House. The House also functions as a connection to the many offices that support the educational experience of students.
Upon matriculation, all students are assigned randomly to membership in a College House. Although students will not be required to live in the House for all four years, this affiliation continues through all four years and extends beyond graduation.
College Houses alter the social landscape of the College. A College House creates an environment that is neither academic nor residential. This environment is sometimes called a "third space," not classroom and not residence hall, but a comfortable and inviting hybrid and something more.
A College House models a way of living that makes for a rich and rewarding life: It supports a social landscape that integrates work, play, a critical approach to new ideas, and the belief that every moment holds the opportunity for discovery and personal satisfaction.
At present, the social landscape at F&M can be described as one where students tend to live a bifurcated life. They interact with faculty only in the classroom or faculty offices and then retreat to the privacy of their residence halls rooms where they study and attend to other matters of daily life.
College Houses change this social landscape. Many events that now happen in a faculty office, administrative office, or classroom building will move to the Houses.