New College House in full operation as ‘living, learning community’

Penn’s 198,000-square-foot, $127 million New College House—the 12th within the University’s college house system—began construction in December 2013 and opened its doors to its first residents at the end of August.

New college house
New College House is the first purpose-built facility in Penn’s college house system. Photo by Eddy Marenco
 
Kam Hypolite says moving to Philadelphia from his native Houston was a “big change.” But as one of the first 350 residents to live in Penn’s New College House, the freshman says he’s been able to adjust quickly.
 
“Everyone here makes me feel like I’m at home,” he says. “It’s been such a welcoming experience.”
 
Hypolite nods to Cam Grey, the New College House’s faculty director, playing soccer with his 8-year-old daughter Isabel and 2-year-old son Connor on the lush, green lawn.
 
“These people right here are my second family already,” Hypolite says. “I love the kids. I love Cam and his wife Ann, they’ve made everything much easier for me.”
New college house
New College House Faculty Director Cam Grey and Penn President Amy Gutmann celebrate at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sept. 13. Photo by Eddy Marenco
 
Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Penn’s 198,000-square-foot, $127 million New College House—the 12th within the University’s college house system—began construction in December 2013 and opened its doors to its first residents at the end of August. Bounded by Woodland Walk and 34th and Chestnut streets, the seven-story building with a lifted lawn serves as a pedestrian gateway to campus. It is equipped with single student rooms collected in multiple-bedroom suites, study areas, a media center, open communal spaces, seminar rooms, and a dining cafe. This is the first of Penn’s residential buildings that was specifically designed to be a college house. 
 
“It’s a beautiful building,” says Grey, an associate professor of classical studies, who lives in the New College House with his family. “But what makes this special is the community, it’s what they do, where they are, and where they take us.”
 
He dubs the space as an “anchoring point” for its student residents.
 
“It’s a place they come back to be nourished,” Grey says. “And be nourished in all the ways you can imagine: socially, emotionally, intellectually, culturally.”
 
As faculty director, Grey serves as a senior staff member along with House Dean Trina Nocerino, Faculty Fellows Jennifer Ponce de Leon and Bridgette Brawner, and House Coordinator Heather Durham. There are 10 resident advisers and graduate associates, acting as leaders in the college house community, planning intellectual programs and events, and offering peer support to the students living in the building.
 
Grey says the New College House has a unique identity, which its residents are to embrace: to be scholars, citizens, and sustainable. 
 
The facility’s design itself encourages its residents to “live our lives in a sustainable way,” Grey says. 
 
For example, 180 dining chairs in the student suites were fabricated in Pennsylvania from 20,000 discarded soda bottles, and 95 percent of rain is collected through a series of cascading green roofs, while paved areas outside are either porous or wash onto nearby lawns or gardens.
 
Grey adds that its residents are also devoted to diversity, freedom of speech, and leadership.
 
“We are strongly committed to helping our residents to grow into leaders and agents themselves,” Grey says. 
 
For the New College House’s first year of operation, it is housing only first-year students, due to the closure of Hill College House, which is being renovated. In subsequent years, New College House will be a four-year house with approximately 50 percent of residents being freshmen. 
 
“This isn’t a dorm. A dorm is just a place where you sleep. This is a living, learning community,” Grey says. “My hope is that the students living in the New College House, at the end of the school year, come out saying, ‘Wow, I had a great year,’ and also, ‘I know what I want, and who I want to be.’”

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