In addition to residence halls, Whitman College also offers its students the opportunity to live in their choice of eleven "real" houses, situated in a neighborhood that borders the campus. These beautiful houses offer 4-10 students each semester an intimate living environment where they are encouraged to participate in the community, Whitman, and beyond. The Interest House Community (IHC) gathers each Sunday morning at one of the houses for a brunch, and members eat dinner together in their separate houses throughout the week. During the year, all of the houses collectively put on all-campus programs such as a Progressive Party during opening week, and the Interest House Block Party in the spring.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, each of the interest houses is centered on a certain interest! The eleven houses are: the Asian Studies House, La Maison Française, La Casa Hispana, the Environmental House, Tekisuijuku, the Global Awareness House, the Writing House, Das Deutsche Haus, the Community Service Co-op, MECCA (Multi-Ethnic Center for Cultural Awareness), and the Fine Arts House. Each house is a campus resource for its theme. In order to uphold this expectation, residents are responsible for holding weekly programs and major monthly programs that are related to the house objective. For example, La Maison Française screens a French movie (with English subtitles, of course!) every Saturday night to promote French cultural awareness and the French language. Most activities are open to all of Whitman’s campus, although there are some intercommunity activities as well. Some recent popular all-campus programs that houses have put on include Earth Week, Mardi Gras, French Café, Hunger Banquet, Outhouse Unplugged, and Chinese New Year.
Please refer to the links in the left column to learn more about each individual house!
What is it like to live here?
Unlike special interest floors at other colleges, living in an Interest House is a personal and intense experience. Residents must not only have an interest in the particular focus of their house but also act on this interest by helping to organize educational and social programs. In an Interest House you might prolong a class discussion about Cervantes over lunch with your Spanish professor or learn origami with your friends at a study break. You may participate in a faculty-led discussion on U.S.-China trade relations, spend a morning recycling with the Environmental House, or concoct French pastries for a Sunday brunch. The possibilities are endless, however student motivation and teamwork are essential to a successful community.
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The IHC includes four language houses: French, German, Spanish and Japanese. In these houses, residents speak the respective language anywhere from each night at dinner to a full 4 days a week, depending on the house. A Native Speaker lives in each of the language houses to help residents improve their language skills and learn about the culture and customs of their country. Native Speakers are hired by the Foreign Languages & Literatures Department, and they assist with language classes while also taking Whitman classes. Speaking the native language in the houses offers students an opportunity to improve their skills outside of the classroom. Many students live in the houses before participating in study abroad programs in order to hone their foreign language capabilities. In addition to speaking the language, residents may host review sessions for language classes, make presentations in classes, and organize conversation tables in dining halls. Professors also hold classes in the houses and are often present at house dinners.
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History of the IHC
Begun in the 1970s, Whitman’s Interest House program was the first program of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Many houses were founded by student groups, whereas others were initially created by academic departments. As the college acquired new residences and founded new houses, the community grew into what it is today: a two-block community on the southeast edge of campus containing 11 Interest Houses, 80 residents, 11 Resident Assistants, 4 native speakers, and Resident Director who resides in a separate centrally located house. Today, more than 18 percent of all students reside in an interest house at some point during their Whitman career.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much does it cost to live in an Interest House?
A: Interest House residents are charged the same price as students living in a double elsewhere on campus, regardless of whether they live in a single, double, or triple.
Q: What about food?
A: Most Interest House residents are required to be on a meal plan. Bon Appétit delivers dinner to the houses four nights each week so that residents can enjoy a family-style dinner. For the remainder of their meals, IHC residents can go to any of the dining halls on campus (Prentiss dining hall is a short walk from any house). The only exception is the Community Service House (Co-op): residents there cook their meals together, and are not required to have a meal plan.
Q: Do the houses have internet?
A: Yes, each interest house has wireless internet access. If you do not have a wireless modem or are having trouble setting up your connection, call Technology Services for assistance .
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Living in an Interest House is a great experience, but it also carries with it some responsibilities that are unique to the IHC. First, residents are expected to help out with programming; this could include anything from designing an advertisement to running a booth at the Block Party. Because much of our activity planning takes place during house meetings, it is important that residents are present at meetings and actively participate. Finally, IHC residents are responsible for cleaning their own houses, so in most houses each resident will be assigned a chore each week.
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How to get involved (even if you don’t live here)
There are many great ways for students who don’t live here to get involved! The easiest way is to watch for advertisements informing you of the activities going on in the IHC - and go! You can also get involved by going recycling with the Outhouse any Sunday morning, attending one of the language discussion tables we host in the dining halls, or joining us for dinner. We love being resources, so if you ever want to come over for dinner, or if you have a question related to our house themes or the IHC in general, don’t hesitate to give us a call! (How can I get more involved in community service in Walla Walla? Where can I recycle green glass? How do you conjugate the subjunctive in French? When is the Block Party again?) If we can’t answer your questions, we can at least point you in the right direction.
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How to apply
So you want to live in an Interest House? We don’t blame you! Here’s what you need to know to apply:
All sophomores, juniors and seniors are eligible to apply to live in interest houses. You must have an interest in the themes of the house(s) to which you are applying, and for language houses you need to have some proficiency in the language. Also, you should be willing to help with planning and presenting programs. All Interest House residents attend weekly house meetings and share dinners together in the individual houses four nights a week.
If you meet all of these requirements, then you should consider applying! You may apply to just one house, or several if you like. If you apply to several, you will be asked to rate your choices. Here are the steps:
- Obtain and complete an application for each house to which you are applying (available at the Residence Life and Housing office, Mem 113). Turn in your completed application(s) to the Residence Life and Housing office by the due date on the application.
- Sign up for and attend a dinner at the house(s) to which you are applying. This is a great chance for you to see what house life is like and ask the current residents questions.
- Sign up for and attend an interview with the RA of each house to which you are applying. Interviews are usually pretty casual; they are a good opportunity for the RA to assess your interest in the house and also for you to ask specific questions about house life.
- For houses that require it, sign up for and attend an interview with the faculty adviser.
Note: if you apply to more than one house, you will not be offered a spot in more than one house. If you are admitted to the community, the IHC staff will decide which house you will be in based on your preferences listed on your application and available space. This is to ensure that we can accommodate as many residents as possible without empty spaces.