Houses that are Homes

Gifts to the Dartmouth College Fund help make great things happen for our students. Here is one of their stories.
NOAH MANNING ’17, a biology major and undergraduate adviser from Wheelock, Vermont, who is planning for medical school, has been involved with Student Assembly since his first year. When President Phil Hanlon ’77 proposed creating house communities as part of Moving Dartmouth Forward, Noah volunteered to serve on the house system planning committee. He’s now a resident of West House—one of six communities.
I was attracted to the idea of house communities immediately. My father went to a school that featured house communities and loved the experience. I saw this as an opportunity for Dartmouth to take the best of our residential communities and make them even better.
From the end of my sophomore year to the beginning of my senior year, I changed rooms every 10 weeks. Constant change, moving from one end of campus to another, creates a sense of discontinuity for students.
While we still have the D-Plan and students moving in and out of dorms, the house system provides a greater sense of continuity. Students who have been away for a term are returning—maybe not to the same dorm—but at least to the same part of campus. They’re surrounded by students they’ve known since their first days at Dartmouth. Because each first-year community is linked to a house community, their freshman floormates will be in their house for the rest of their time at Dartmouth.
Students in the classes of 2019 and 2020 have really embraced the houses. Some older students remain skeptical, but there’s little active opposition to the concept. What I sometimes hear is, “This is my senior year, I don’t need new friends,” which is fine. This is community by choice. Students have communities through their religious organizations, Greek organizations, sports teams, and cocurricular activities. We’re not competing with any of them. You can belong to a soccer team, sorority, and house community—and love them all.
Each house offers a mix of events, from intramural sports to dinners to watching Sherlock on Sunday evenings. And everyone has enjoyed getting to know the house professors. Ryan Hickox in West House and all the house professors are wonderful.
The house resident fellows are also terrific. It’s great to have informal conversations with graduate students who’ve experienced what you’re going through. I can chat with a Geisel student about how hard it is to take the MCAT and feel better about what lies ahead for me.
Three years from now will be an important mark. That’s the point when every single student has been a member of a house since day one, has gotten to know the house professors well, and really understands what it means to be a member of the house. But the house communities will constantly evolve, finding new ways to make the student experience better and creating new traditions. I look forward to tracking that evolution.