Franklin & Marshall College offers an integrated learning environment where students engage the values of the liberal arts both through the curriculum and in their lives outside the formal classroom. Consistent with the Mission Statement of the College, faculty and administrative offices place student learning at the center of their work. Programs and activities guide and support students as they explore a love of learning, the skills of critical thinking, the role of citizenship in their lives and the values of civility. The College challenges students to make the most of the academic program and other educational opportunities offered by this residential campus, to practice mental and physical wellness and to develop their talents and interests as part of an educated and socially responsible community.

The faculty-led College House system is the keystone of Franklin & Marshall’s vision for integrating academic and residential life. While a College House is in a literal sense a student residence, it is more than this. College Houses are led by senior members of the Faculty, the Dons, and by their colleagues, the College House Deans, experienced academic and student life professionals. The Houses foster an environment that infuses student life with thoughtful deliberation and intellectual exploration, habits of thought and analysis that will serve students throughout their personal and professional lives. The Houses are the meeting ground where students can interact and network among the extended College family. Together, Faculty Dons, College House Deans and students create events that bring faculty, students, alumni/ae, distinguished visitors and professional staff together in formal and informal settings to engage in lively discussions and social interactions that break the barrier between classroom and student residence.

Upon matriculation, all students are assigned to membership in a College House. Although students are not required to live in the House for all four years, this affiliation continues through the entire Franklin & Marshall experience and extends beyond graduation. Most students enter the House System as a member of a residential Connections course. These courses introduce students to skills of critical reading, critical thinking, written and oral communication and information literacy. At the same time, the students live together in the same area of the College House making it possible for discussions of substance about ideas to move easily between the classroom and the residential environment.

Within Houses, students elect leaders, craft and enforce standards of behavior, manage their own social programs and resolve the problems of living that arise among House residents. The governing structure of each House is based on the explicit acknowledgement that students are adults and should control many aspects of their social and residential life. College Houses are therefore also places where the arts of democracy are learned and leadership is incubated.

College Houses express the ethos of the College. College Houses are connected communities where all students can find a place. Creating an environment that is neither exclusively academic nor residential, the House environment is sometimes called a “third space,” a comfortable and inviting hybrid of classroom and residence hall that exceeds its individual parts. The College Houses model a way of living that makes for a rewarding life: they support 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.                  

This emphasis on integrating ideas and residential life informs many other areas of the student experience. Both academic and career advising ask students to think about the value of a liberal arts education and the connections among the liberal arts and the world of work. Social and co-curricular programming emphasizes student initiative in planning and organizing events. Students are encouraged to see themselves as citizens informed by an entrepreneurial spirit. The College also provides opportunities for students to explore the meaning of faith, religion and spirituality. Because of its commitment to educating the whole person, the College has a number of programs that emphasize health and wellness, including personal counseling, programs in the residence halls, varsity and intramural sports and workshops on health issues.

In March 2009, the faculty voted to implement a Common Hour, a weekly time during which no classes are scheduled, to enable the entire College community to gather for special events. This common gathering time, used for lectures, topical discussions, projects and other community gatherings since Spring 2010, was designed to promote the involvement of all members of the College in meaningful intellectual exchange and to broaden the reach of the liberal arts experience.