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For two Penn alumni, Stouffer College House played such an integral role in their college experience that they decided to get married on the steps. Of the many communities on Penn’s campus, the lesser-known college houses of Stouffer and Gregory College House create lasting impressions on residents.

Gregory and Stouffer are the unassuming low-rises located on the edge of campus. The average Penn student may be unaware that these houses even exist, but for the roughly 500 students living in there, they serve as the epicenter of their social lives and Penn experience.

Both houses pride themselves on having the highest retention rates on campus. Many students who live in Gregory or Stouffer their freshman years choose to continue to live in their chosen house through graduation. For a lot of the residents of Gregory and Stouffer, these houses are not only a place to live, but a home away from home.

“I first came on for financial reasons, but stayed for the community,” 2015 Wharton graduate and Stouffer resident Valerie Richards said. “There is always somebody who has my back.”

“We are just a community that helps each other and are not bothered by doing so,” said Wharton junior Chantelle La Marr, who also lives in Stouffer.

Many students make the bulk of their friends in their freshman year dorms and decide to return to maintain these connections.

“I returned because of the atmosphere,” College sophomore Lydia Ramharack said. “It’s really friendly. A majority of my friends live in Gregory so that’s why I returned.”

Given the overwhelming number of fraternity houses located in and around Locust Walk and the variety of events they host every weekend, the third of the student body involved in Greek life can seem to have a disproportionate amount of influence over the social scene at Penn. But this is not the case for the remaining two-thirds of the student body who have managed to carve out their own social hubs.

Since they raise and manage their own funds, Stouffer residents and staff have complete jurisdiction over the way the social events are conducted and the house is organized. All house decisions are made collectively and house management is a collaborative endeavor among the residents, house managers and the staff.

“We do everything as a community, make decisions as a community, chart our course as a community,” Stouffer Faculty Master Phil Nichols said. “That is harder, and it takes a lot of time, but it is how a community is made.”

To ensure that the voices of the residents are heard, upperclassmen are given the opportunity to take on leadership roles in the house. House managers are responsible for planning the 18 to 20 social events that take place in the house each week. Activities in Gregory and Stouffer are very popular amongst the residents.

“The events are well-attended because they come from our community, not somebody else’s idea of what our community would like, and also they are a lot of fun,” Nichols said.

While Stouffer residents host barbecues, game nights, a semi-formal as well as charity events in honor of a resident who passed away, Gregory students appreciate the regularity of TV nights, study breaks and brunches on designated days of the week.

“[Gregory residents] like the consistency of being able to see the same people at the same time,” Gregory House Dean Christopher Donovan said.

This system allows for the events to be planned in accordance with the residents’ wishes.

“I think where there is an opportunity to do something better, Stouffer does. When we do a great event, we keep on doing it again,” College junior Peter Moon said. “It ends up being what the residents want instead of what was decided 10 years ago.”

Despite being very social communities, all of the residents in Gregory and Stouffer live in single rooms, which may attract students who place a premium on privacy. But this does not detract from the social bonds among the residents. Residents willingly venture out of their rooms, socializing with other residents and participating in events. Students are not forced to form relationships with one another simply because they are living in close quarters.

“Stouffer is filled with people that want to be social and have a community and respect the need for people’s need for alone time ... [the events] are not shoved down people’s throats,” La Marr said.

“One of the reasons I love living here is because there is always someone to share with,” Nichols said of Stouffer.

Despite the physical isolation of the buildings, the students in Gregory and Stouffer are often involved in a lot of extracurricular activities and are in no way segregated from the rest of campus.

“There is a stereotype that people in the house never get out, but this is not true — Gregory students are very active in the community,” Donovan said.

What connects the residents of Gregory and Stouffer is that they appreciate the sense of community in their houses. This common value is what makes their bonds so strong.

House masters claim that Gregory and Stouffer residents are just as diverse as the Penn community, and there is no typical type of student that is drawn to either one of the houses.

“There is something that anyone could be interested in here,” Ramharack said.

This camaraderie extends beyond the residents’ four years at Penn. House alumni who live in the area still attend the social events hosted by Stouffer or Gregory.

Stouffer and Gregory residents find great comfort the social hubs they have formed within their college houses. Many would never trade it for an apartment in the high rises.

“It is not just a community, it becomes your Penn family,” La Marr said.

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