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The New College House West design collective’s first goal is to establish a house motto.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Members of the inaugural class of New College House West residents have the opportunity to shape the dorm's identity for years to come. 

A six-student team, led by NCHW Faculty Director Amy Stornaiuolo, will decide the house motto, logo, colors, and coat of arms. All students who live in NCHW are encouraged to join the committee to have their voices heard as part of the design collective. 

The team’s first goal is to establish a motto, which will dictate the other features of the house identity.

In the first week of school, House Director Trina Sokoloski had residents write the themes that they want to see in the NCHW community embody on a whiteboard as part of a scavenger hunt. From there, the design collective took all the data and embarked on a three-week design sprint to distill all the themes down to six core ideas, including sustainability, home and warmth, innovation, nature and growth, destination, and creativity.

The committee then sent out a survey to NCHW residents, asking them to rank the themes. The design collective will then analyze the survey and decide which themes should be embodied in the motto, the colors, the logo, and the coat of arms.

The goal of using smaller design sprints is to take their time and give as many opportunities for different people to join, whether that be residents or other people part of the community, Stornaiuolo said.

"Working in these smaller chunks also feels like a more democratic and doable kind of mechanism for coming to consensus," said Stornaiuolo. 

Credit: Kylie Cooper A whiteboard at the entrance of NCHW advertised the Design Collective meeting.

Students were also a part of establishing an identity for Lauder College House, which opened in 2016, Stornaiuolo said.

"I think a core component of Penn as an institution is to think about students as key stakeholders in their own educational experience," said Stornaiuolo. 

Students have had positive experiences as members of the committee so far and enjoyed their role in shaping the identity of NCHW. 

"It's a great honor just to be able to be one of the first-class that's living in this dorm. The logo and the motto are things that are going to stand in history over time, so I think it's really important to contribute to that and just be part of the community," committee member and College sophomore Nithin Ramachandran. 

New College House West opened this fall, offering students suite-style apartments with a dining cafe, private courtyard, coffee bar, and spectacular views of the city.

Stornaiuolo said she wanted to spearhead the design collective because of her previous experience in design leadership, and her desire to make NCHW feel like a “home away from home.”

For example, Quaker Kitchen, a central component of the house, focuses on connection around food, Stornaiuolo said. The design collective allows a lot of people to get involved and creates a structure for implementing ideas and getting feedback. 

"I would emphasize that these students who've come forward, I mean, it doesn't surprise me because every time I work with Penn students, they always surprise me by how brilliant they are. But these folks are so good," said Stornaiuolo. 

The committee is still looking for more people to join. There are many ways to get involved in the committee, with roles including analyzing statistical data and using Qualtrics or designing the logo and coat of arms, Stornaiuolo said.

Wharton sophomore Sapphira Ching said she is interested in designing the logo as part of the design collective. 

"I love New College House West and I wanted to contribute to the design aspect of the house,” Ching said. “So I think those two come together in this committee."