Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Finding Home in the IHC


Illustration by Helios Santoro

Whitman’s Interest Houses are themed houses on Boyer street built to create close-knit communities of four to 10 students. They have the freedom of an off campus house with the structure and campus proximity of a resident hall. The RA’s often feel just like another resident, and Whitman facilities maintains the houses. The 11 interest houses are: the Asian Studies House, La Maison Française, La Casa Hispana, the Environmental House, Tekisuijuku, the Wellness House, the Writing House, Das Deutsche Haus, the Community Service Co-op, Multicultural House and the Fine Arts House.

The houses consistently foster a sense of community through shared meals, group activities and all-Interest House brunches that happen monthly. Junior Ellen Haney is a Resident Assistant for the Outhouse, the more colloquial name for the Environmental house. For Haney, there are numerous opportunities to build community in a way that comes naturally to residents.

“Our house dinners are really fun. We sit around, we cook occasionally, like every other week or every week. It’s really fun to be playing music and cooking in the kitchen. Also, we’ve been making these little clay creations,” Haney said.

The shared passions of IHC residents means that there is a deeper dimension to their gatherings that promotes broader involvement on campus in critical issues.

“We all have shared interest in [the] environment. A lot of people in our house are involved in specific clubs on campus like the organic garden or the greenhouse or the salmon conservation club. We talk about what’s going on in those things. We have a shared interest and that makes it really fun to talk to other people,” Haney said.

Sofia Del Fiol is a sophomore resident of La Masion Française, and discussed how the language-focused interest houses promote an opportunity to grow language acquisition skills in a more casual environment. 

“The French House is awesome. I’m reapplying next semester. I love living here. I think it’s a great community. It’s a good chance to talk to other people who have interest in francophone studies, but also to have a house but still live on campus and be in the in-between. That’s what I really like about the IHC in general,” Del Fiol said.

The houses also focus on outreach events that are open to the broader Whitman community, giving non-residents the opportunity to engage with the passions of fellow students. For Del Fiol, some of her favorite memories at La Masion Française happened at the frequent French movie screenings and at the house’s Cajun music night. This year, other events hosted by language interest houses included a Día de los Muertos celebration, a Chinese New Year dinner, a traditional calligraphy lesson and a German language night. 

There are also rich opportunities for houses to collaborate to share space, ideas and resources to put on combined events that demonstrate the intersection of interests at Whitman that reflects a liberal arts tradition. Annually, the IHC hosts a block party to help students get to know the community and the students living in the houses, but throughout the year houses have collaborated to put on bigger events.

This year, there’s been a resurgence in IHC activities that draw on Whitman tradition, like the “Out at Casa” event co-hosted with La Casa Hispana, The Outhouse and LGBTQIA+ Whitman. The event took inspiration from a 1993 Casa Hispana event that featured drag competitions and dancing facilitated by the Coalition Against Homophobia. Events like these are a reminder of the Interest Houses’ longstanding impact on the Whitman community, and the power they hold as agents for building connection.

Jorgie Hampilos, La Maison’s RA, described how the gatherings between the interest houses facilitate this type of broader community in the IHC. Together, the houses make a powerful community, and a powerful brunch.

“We have brunch once a month-ish with all the houses. One house will host and then the other houses will cook things. We had one this morning, it was fun,” Hampilos said.”The Fine Arts House made pancakes and the Asian Studies House made eggs and [Tekisuijuku] brought fancy toast. Then you get to talk to other people from other houses and that’s pretty fun.”

All interest houses are currently accepting applications for residence for the Fall 2024 semester.

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