Six groups of students eagerly awaited an email on Friday to let them know if their ideas for a new residential program at Penn would come to fruition.
College Houses and Academic Services selected three of these six proposals — Women in Computer Science in Kings Court English House, Integrated Living in Harrison College House and Jewish Cultural Studies in Rodin College House — as new residential programs for the 2012-13 school year.
“We’re extremely pleased that students bought into this concept of creating new residential programs,” CHAS Executive Director Martin Redman said. “Students worked hard in coming up with legitimate and positive proposals, and they all should be applauded for their effort.”
The Quakers Optimizing Organic Leadership and Lucid Dreaming programs were not approved. Transfer Students for Transfer Students was also not approved as a residential program, but CHAS will give transfers the option of living with each other due to the program’s proposal.
“We thought we would come up with one program approved,” CHAS Director of Communications Sue Smith said. “To heave three — kind of four — is really beyond our expectations.”
After receiving input from the Residential Advisory Board and the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education last spring on how to improve the residential program system, CHAS decided to let students pitch their own ideas for future programs.
At the time, Wharton and College senior Charles Gray, a Daily Pennsylvanian columnist and former SCUE chair, College senior and RAB Chair John Gee and College junior and SCUE member Elise Argall felt that some residential programs were lacking student interest.
“One of the feelings was that we could create ownership over residential programs by giving students the mechanism to create their own idea and let them be its brainchild,” Gray said.
Gray and Gee were also looking to start a new system of evaluating current residential programs.
They took their suggestions to CHAS, which implemented a system for students to propose their own ideas beginning this fall. Students will have the option to apply for all three of the approved programs in January.
“I’m very happy CHAS decided to run our suggestions,” Gee said. “It was very unexpected to see it happen so soon.”
After accepting student proposals between Oct. 14 and Nov. 7, a committee made up of students, CHAS representatives and college house deans evaluated programs based on their residential and intellectual nature and their ability to generate student interest, among other criteria.
“All student groups went from a very basic idea to having really fleshed out and smart ideas about what the program can be,” CHAS Director of College House Academic Programs Leslie Delauter said.
College junior Meir Dardashti, who proposed the Jewish Cultural Studies program, agreed that his team improved its idea throughout the process with the help of Delauter.
Throughout the upcoming semester, Dardashti and the other successful proposers — College freshman Igor Baran from Integrated Living and Engineering sophomore Trisha Kothari and junior Gabriela Moreno-Cesar from Women in Computer Science — will begin developing a more comprehensive schedule for their programs.
Next fall, all residential programs — including the three new ones — will be reevaluated to make sure they are generating student interest and benefiting the entire college house in which they are located.
“Adding even a small number of new residential programs every year means we have to radically rethink how to get rid of some programs,” Delauter said.
Gray said he is excited about greater student involvement in this new system.
“It’s very difficult for house deans to sustain that kind of interest with a top-down structure,” Gray said. “Ultimately, if students aren’t interested there’s no way programs will be successful.”
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