F&M Stories

'A Neighborhood Environment'

Ask any student at Franklin & Marshall College to name the one feature that distinguishes F&M from its peer institutions, and the answer almost universally is the same:

The College Houses.

These five distinct spaces — Bonchek, Brooks, Roschel, Ware and Weis — blend the everyday joys of residential living (impromptu pizza parties, open-mic nights, pumpkin carving at Halloween) with meaningful moments of intellectual discovery (writing workshops, alumni guest lectures, all-night equation-solving sessions).

As F&M President Barbara Altmann reminds us, the Houses purposefully blend the line between living and learning at Franklin & Marshall.

"A student's College House is their first home when they come to F&M," she says. "It is the place where they make their first friends at a bagel breakfast, attend their first class in the House's seminar room, and begin their first steps into college life and independence."

They are also the places where leadership roles are defined and refined, with each House penning its own constitution and crafting its own model of self-governance. Students from diverse backgrounds come together and learn from one another. And by doing so, they develop the cross-cultural, collaborative approach to problem-solving that is so critical to success in a global society.

Along the way, they are mentored not only by one another, but also by a residential faculty adviser (the House don) and an administrative support staff member (the House dean). And even after they eventually move out of their House, typically after two years on campus, they remain lifelong members of the community and are always welcome to return for events — or just to hang out in the Common Rooms.

Meet a handful of students who say the House experience at F&M has changed them for the better and prepared them for the world beyond the College campus. We asked each of them to describe what they like best about their communities, and what they want prospective students to know about House life: 

Hermela Assefa '22
Hermela assefa, class of 2022

From: Northern Virginia
F&M House: Bonchek
Major: Public health (socioloy track)

What is your favorite part of being a member of your House?

Being a member of Bonchek has given me the opportunity to be part of a dynamic and multicultural community of distinguished scholars, activists, and creative people. I am proud to be part of an inclusive and supportive community, one where I can embrace my Ethiopian culture and get a taste of the different cultures in our House at various events. I am incredibly grateful for the professional development workshops and mentorship that I have received, allowing me to become a Bonchek House adviser (student mentor), Marshall Fellowship recipient, and Junto Society member!

What is the one thing you would tell the incoming class of first-years about life in the Houses that you didn't know until you were a student here?

I didn't know how easy it was to help plan and engage in various House events that have become some of my greatest memories at F&M. Whether you want to host a game night with friends or sit on the planning committee of a global fashion showcase, you have the flexibility to explore your interests with the support of your peers, dean, and don to help bring your idea to life. 

Members of Brooks House

hannah breedlove, class of 2022

From: Marietta, Pa.
F&M House: Brooks
Major: History

What is your favorite part of being a member of your House?

I love the sense of belonging and companionship that comes with being a member of Brooks House. Living in the same halls, we Brooksians are able to find support systems with one another, which has been especially important while going to college during a pandemic. We also have been able to find ways to creatively and safely engage with each other, fostering the community environment that we all need and enjoy. 

What is the one thing you would tell the incoming class of first-years about life in the Houses that you didn't know until you were a student here?

It's a neighborhood environment in the College Houses, and that's a great thing. I didn't know before coming to F&M that I would get to know so many people so well. Birthdays and study nights, for example, are shared experiences here, and meeting new friends is easier than expected since we have our House identity in common as a starting point.

Students at Brooks College House
Tatum evans, class of 2024

From: Dover, Mass.
F&M House: Brooks
Intended major: Business, organizations and society

What is your favorite part of being a member of your House?

I love how Brooks puts a significant emphasis on bonding with your classmates through House events, hall events, and your Connections Course (first-year seminar you and 15 classmates take in your House). My favorite Brooks House tradition is Sunday Night Sundaes. This event allows Brooksians of all class years to come together for a stress-relieving end to the week.

What is the one thing you would tell the incoming class of first-years about life in the Houses that you didn't know until you were a student here?

I had no idea that the Common Room was such a big part of the House life at F&M. It was always a fun place to hang out, watch movies, or even play games. There was hardly a day where I didn't spend some time in the Common Room!

Zoe Favilla '23
zoe favilla, class of 2023

From: Sarsdale, N.Y.
F&M House: Roschl
Major: Psychology and public health double major

What is your favorite part of being a member of your House?

My favorite part of being a member of Roschel is that my House affiliation lasts beyond just my first year. Also, the strong sense of community that is fostered as a result of this long-standing membership. At F&M, students participate in both Convocation (first-year welcome ceremony) and Commencement with the members of their College House, so there is a great sense of unity and community as our collective college experience comes full circle by the time we graduate. This facet of residential life at F&M is further enhanced by all of the opportunities there are to get to know the other members of your House through events hosted by each College House's government, such as Roschel College House Senate, which I have been a member of since my first semester at F&M.

What is the one thing you would tell the incoming class of first-years about life in the Houses that you didn't know until you were a student here?

I would emphasize the wide array of opportunities for friendship and personal development within your own House, as well as between Houses. Some of my closest friends have different House affiliations than I do, and I was able to meet some of these individuals through events that included all Houses, such as events through the College Entertainment Committee (student-run event-planning group). The options that F&M provides for on-campus activities encourages students to become well-acquainted with those in their House, in other Houses, and from other class years, too. 

Omar Guerrero '22 pictured with Trinity Nguyen '22
Omar guerrero, class of 2022

From: Houston, Texas
F&M House: Roschel
Major: Government and public health (biology track)

What is your favorite part of being a member of your House?

My favorite part is being able to know people across the different class years in a setting outside of the classroom. Through the House, I see people grow so much in just a few short years. It's also a way for me to provide advice to people in years below me on how to navigate and manage F&M.

What is the one thing you would tell the incoming class of first-years about life in the Houses that you didn't know until you were a student here?

I would say that the House system lets you build House pride that helps you to bond with people in the same House. As someone from Roschel, I can say we have better swag, cooler deans, and better bathrooms. But that's my opinion!

Mia Gwirtzman '24
Mia gwirtzman, class of 2024

From: Hewlett, N.Y.
F&M House: Ware
Intended major: Art history

What is your favorite part of being a member of your House?

Ware has provided me with a sense of community, especially during the pandemic. As a first-year, I didn't know many people when I first came to campus. I joined Ware Parliament (the student government body of Ware) and found that there was more of a community in the House than I had thought. By being a part of Parliament, I was able to help organize events that brought members of Ware together. 

What is the one thing you would tell the incoming class of first-years about life in the Houses that you didn't know until you were a student here?

After living in Ware for a few weeks, I realized that the Common Rooms are great places to hang out with your friends and study. I was also able to make friends by just saying 'Hi' to people walking by the Common Room in the hallway. 

 Sarah Nicell '24

sarah nicell, class of 2024

From: Glassboro, N.J.
F&M House: Bonchek
Major: Government

What is your favorite part of being a member of your House?

Aside from the amazing friends I have made being a part of the Bonchek community, my favorite part about my House is the pride and joy so many of us feel to be a member of such a close-knit space. So many Bonchekers strive to be strong leaders of both their House and the college as a whole, and this determination pushes us to be better every day. The only thing more passionate than a Boncheker is an entire House of Bonchekers, and we wear that status proudly. Plus, we are right next to the dining hall, so that’s a perk.

What is one thing you would tell the incoming class of first-years about life in the Houses that you didn't know until you were a student here?

Each House is entirely different, but you will love all of them. They have their own traditions, Great Rooms, government systems, and rules, as well as different competitive spirits with the other houses. While your dean and don are amazing resources, a great deal of House life is student-driven, so if you want to be a part of that, run for your house government. In reality, you will have friends that you adore from all places, but your first friends will likely be from your House; my best firneds are. Also... every House thinks that theirs is the best, but the actual correct answer is Bonchek, in case you were wondering.

Related Articles

April 19, 2024

Senior Spotlight: Huaizhi Liu

Huaizhi Liu embraced new opportunities at F&M, including researching in the physics lab, being an admission tour guide, learning how to use power tools with Catastrophic Relief Alliance, and being production manager of Choomies.

April 17, 2024

My Student Experience: 'Night at the Museum' Could Never Compare

As a double major in French and history, people ask Ruth Axford, "What are you going to do with that?" How about spending a study abroad working in a Paris museum.

April 12, 2024

Senior Spotlight: Micheala Patalano

Micheala Patalano shares how music at F&M, particularly singing and performing with the a cappella group Sweet Ophelia, helped the College feel like a true home.