November 12, 2007

West Campus Has Much to Offer

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Consider this: the Class of 2008 will be the last Cornell class with any memories of West Campus before the West Campus House System opened its first house, Alice Cook House, in August 2004. Since then the House System has tripled with Carl Becker House opening in 2005 and Hans Bethe House opening this fall. Next August, house four, William Keeton House, will open. When as yet unnamed house five join this lineup in a few years, 1,800 Cornell sophomores, juniors and seniors will live, eat, work, debate, reflect, recreate, and relax in the West Campus House System together with five House Professor-Deans, five assistant deans, 29 graduate resident fellows, 15 student assistants and 150 House Fellows — Cornell faculty and senior administrators who venture down the hill to participate in various House activities.

For most students residing in or visiting one of the three houses open to date I imagine that the new facilities — each house has its own dining room, library, common room, pantry and more — are what initially attract their attention. But those of us involved prefer to think of the programmatic innovation and the engagement of so many Cornell faculty with Cornell students as the critical features of the West Campus House System.

This semester graduate resident fellows have offered study sessions for students in three houses in Organic Chemistry, Spanish, AEM and Stats and more. We have organized pre-law and resumé workshops and hosted a recruiter for Teach for America. Residents have had the opportunity to dine and talk informal with a heady line-up of visitors to Cornell, many of whom have stayed in one of our Guest Suites including the mathematics educator and activist Robert Moses, journalist and child poverty expert Alex Kotlowitz. General Anthony Zinni and former Attorney General Janet Reno are expected this spring. Week in and week out the Houses also host informal talks with Cornell faculty, including Martha Haynes (Astronomy), Nick Salvatore (ILR and American Studies), and Shelley Feldman (Dev Soc and FIGS).

Nearly all of the programs on West Campus are open to the entire Cornell community. Please come down the hill and check out the House System.

Ross Brann is the Milton R. Konvitz Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies and the house professor and dean of Alice Cook House.