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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

Whitman College Opens at Princeton University

— The Collegiate Way first reported on Whitman College at Princeton University back in February of 2002 when it was in its early planning stages. Whitman is now open, and today’s edition of The Daily Princetonian, Princeton’s student newspaper, features a number of stories about it, including the overview below. (The original version on the Princetonian website includes a number of photos not reproduced here.) I’ve linked a number of passages in this story to the many sections of the Collegiate Way website that have reported earlier news or that describe in detail the standard residential college principles and practices that are manifest at Whitman.

Whitman unveiled

The campus gets its first view of the newest of the residential colleges

Thursday, September 13, 2007

It took two years to plan, three years to construct and $136 million to fund. Now Whitman College—equipped with a state-of-the-art dining hall, a digital photo lab and plentiful greenery—is finally open.

Two hundred freshmen, 100 sophomores, 200 upperclassmen and 10 graduate students have moved into the college that promises to transform life at Princeton by kicking off the four-year residential college system.

Despite Whitman’s 10 buildings and impressive facilities, two challenges still face its incoming residents.

“At Whitman, we have been blessed with a fabulous infrastructure,” said economics professor Harvey Rosen, who will serve as the first master of Whitman.

“On the other hand, we have no shared history or traditions. The greatest challenge is to take a group of people who, in some sense, are strangers, and turn them into a community.” [Let the Collegiate Way be your guide. —RJO]

These goals—developing a common college identity and building community —are on the minds of most Whitman staff. Everything they need, however, is already in place.

“It’s up to the residents to give Whitman character,” Whitman RCA Hannah Xu ‘08 said. “The facilities are there and ready to receive us.”

Chip McCorkle ‘09, chair of Whitman’s College Council, which coordinates college activities, is confident that the residents will come together.

“I think that will be a challenge of ours, to bring everybody together across classes,” he said. “But I think it’s absolutely doable.”

Whitman also will be a hub of “constant academic activity,” Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel said. Whitman holds several classrooms, the Princeton Writing Program and the Writing Center.

McCorkle said upperclassmen will play a key role in the realm of student-led programming.

“We definitely don’t want Whitman to be a two-year college under a four-year facade,” he said. The College Council has been in close contact with the leaders of Whitman to develop activities that will engage students from all classes.

Among its activities, Whitman will host numerous study breaks, community service trips and cooking classes from head chef Daniel Slobodien. One major event, the Whitman Olympics, is scheduled for tomorrow.

Dorms will compete against each other in courtyard games. “It’s all about building dorm pride,” McCorkle said.

A comprehensive system

The new residential college system will revolve around three four-year colleges each linked with a two-year “sister college.” Each college is expected to develop its own personality more fully than in the past.

Mathey College, formerly a two-year college, accompanies Whitman in housing upperclassmen as well as freshmen and sophomores this year. Mathey underwent renovations to its dining facilities and common room in recent months to accommodate the upperclassmen. Rocky’s dining hall and servery shared with Mathey were also extensively renovated.

Butler College will open as the third four-year college in fall 2009 after extensive reconstruction and renovation.

The other three colleges—Forbes, Rockefeller and Wilson—will continue to house only underclassmen and will be linked to Whitman, Mathey and Butler respectively. Upperclassmen will still return to their old colleges for academic advising and special events.

Sophomores will be able to draw into any four-year college for their junior year housing as well as into upperclass dorms. Students living in a college’s sister will receive priority when assigned housing.

Freshmen will continue to be assigned randomly to their colleges. After accepting Princeton’s offer of admission, new students are divided into six groups to reflect the overall demographics of the class. These groups are then randomly assigned to the colleges.

New leadership

Rosen, who served on President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, will lead Whitman. Rosen was a member of the Four-Year College Program Planning Committee in 2002, which he said piqued his interest in Whitman’s development and significance.

“As the work of the committee progressed,” Rosen said, “I found myself getting more intrigued by the four-year college project and jumped when the opportunity arose to help see it through.”

After four years as Rockefeller’s director of studies, Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu GS ‘02 accepted the role as dean of Whitman. She will oversee Whitman’s administrative operations and play a major role in academic advising alongside director of studies Cole Crittenden GS ‘05.

Crittenden earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in Slavic Languages and Literature and most recently was the resident dean of Currier College at Harvard.

“When I heard about the opening of the director of studies position at Whitman, I realized how much I missed Princeton,” he said. “Once I understood that Whitman would be a four-year college and I met Professor Rosen, as well as the rest of the staff, I couldn’t imagine a better place to be.”

Graves-Bayazitoglu also brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to her position. She earned her Ph.D. from Princeton in French literature and is experienced in both classroom teaching and academic administration.

Mentha Hynes-Wilson, a newcomer to Princeton, will serve as Whitman’s director of student life. She is familiar with the development of student programs and is excited to become an available source of support for students. “[In previous positions], I have developed a reputation as a ‘student-friendly resource,’ and I hope to earn a similar status at Princeton,” she said.

Force for change

The University formally began discussing the four-year college transition in 2002. The vision grew out of several considerations, most notably the recommendations from the Wythes Committee to add 500 undergraduates to the student body by 2012 and to reconnect upperclassmen with the residential colleges.

To facilitate this reconnection, all upperclassmen will automatically receive two meals per week in any residential college. There is also the option of a shared meal plan, which allows upperclassmen who belong to eating clubs to take some meals in the dining halls as well.

Malkiel said the new college system will include “significantly enhanced opportunities for student-generated activities.” She expects Whitman and Mathey, as four-year colleges, to blaze the trail for other colleges to take the initiative in programming.

“Both colleges will afford the opportunity for undergraduates, resident and nonresident, to imagine the sorts of programs and activities they would like to develop in college settings and then make those programs and activities happen,” Malkiel said.

Graves-Bayazitoglu also sees Whitman and Mathey as important pioneers in adding new dimensions to student life for juniors and seniors.

RCAs also will take on new roles in the four-year colleges.

“With so many upperclassmen, you’re no longer just a leader and just a role model,” Whitman RCA Lauren Whitehead ‘09 said. Instead, RCAs are students as well as advisers and act as part of a larger community of upperclassmen.

Whitman will also house a handful of resident graduate students, some of whom will be involved in planning and activities like tutoring.

Sahar Sharifzadeh, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the electrical engineering department, will tutor Whitman residents in physics and math.

Sharifzadeh knows, however, that her job won’t stop there. “Overall, [resident graduate students] are there to give advice and show support for students and freshmen,” she said.

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