Establishing community through the College House Program

International House
International House

First-year housing is determined by First-Year Seminars, which is one of the first four courses students will take during their fall semester. They are topical in nature based on the professors’ unique interests, such as protest music, the usage of whales in literature, and the art of tea-making. Seminars are placed into common categories such as history, science, or art, which are then used to group students in first-year residence halls, allowing them to form a sense of community by living and learning with their peers.

Housing after your first year

As Gettysburg College helps students find commonalities amongst each other in first-year residence halls, themed College Houses were similarly established to allow students to continue fostering those bonds throughout their time here on campus. If students wish to continue living in a related environment after their first year, there are currently 19 College Houses to choose from. Led by a house leader, each one incorporates a variety of personal identities, academic studies, and other interests into a programmatic vision each year.

Students outside the Blue Note Jazz House
From left to right: Summer Burton ’22, Chloe Dougherty ’21, Matthew Semon ’23, Megan McCook ’23, and Blaise Veres ’22 outside the Blue Note Jazz House during the Transgender Day of Visibility trick-or-treating run through the themed houses

Choosing a College House

During Experience Gettysburg, a part of Orientation, each College House hosts an event for new students to visit, explore, and talk to other students with common interests. I attended a variety of events at different houses during my Orientation, such as coloring at the Education House, game night at the RISE House, and ice cream social at the Blue Note Jazz House.

These houses will also hold events during the semester so students can continue to get to know our residential experience, while also sharing their interests with the campus community. When it came to applying to a College House, I was interested in the Blue Note Jazz House because I got to know some of its residents during my first year through ensemble performances, including with the Jazz Ensemble, Wind Symphony, and Marching Band, and I wanted to continue being a part of their community.

Benefits of living in a themed house

For me, living with others who have an interest in jazz, as well as other kinds of music, seemed like an exciting and unique environment. During the fall of my sophomore year, I was also taking courses for my music minor, so I thought living with others who pursued music academically would be beneficial to all our studies. I had support from my housemates who were both current classmates and upperclass students who had completed the same classes I was currently taking. We were always available to help each other and we had lots of conversations about what we were learning.

However, what I enjoy most is that not all of us are music majors. I am an economics major and others major in physics, arabic, psychology, Middle Eastern Islamic studies, peace and justice studies, and East Asian studies. We are constantly having conversations about our other academic interests and can relate them back to music.

Drawing connections between your themed house and the community

The Blue Note Jazz House is one of the smaller College Houses by total number of residents, but large in terms of its traditions and impact on campus for jazz appreciation, which I am proud to be a part of.

All members of the Blue Note Jazz House are also members of the Jazz Appreciation Society, which is a club on campus that is open to all students who are interested in jazz music. Through this club, we run listening and information sessions, as well as partner with other College Houses to host events. In the spring, we did a virtual event with Latinx House, where we listened and talked about Latin jazz, and hope to have another event this fall with guest speakers. We’ve also hosted events with other houses, including “Coco and Cocoa” through a streaming site, where we could watch the movie Coco together while drinking hot chocolate. We did the same thing for a Super Bowl watch party.

Plus, each year, the Blue Note Jazz House sponsors Swing Dance, where everyone dances in front of a big band jazz ensemble. During my first year, I went with some friends from my residence hall who were not involved in the music programs, but events such as Swing Dance are a great way to share these interests with others in the campus community.

Students supporting another student at her senior recital
From left to right: Matthew Semon ’23, Summer Burton ’22, Chloe Dougherty ’21, Lillian Newton ’23, Megan McCook ’23, and Blaise Veres ’22, supporting Chloe at a senior recital

Establishing house traditions

Traditions are a big part of what makes Gettysburg College so special, not only as a broader campus community but also within each College House. One of the traditions we have in our Blue Note Jazz House is a membership book, where the house leader puts together a photo album of pictures each year. Our themed house is 21 years old—the oldest one on campus—so we love reminiscing on its past.

At the beginning of the fall semester, all new residents are given a door decoration, which serves as a visual representation of their welcoming to the house. We then spend the day decorating the common area with Swing Dance posters and Jazz Appreciation Society flyers, as well as update our photo wall featuring all of us and our friends.

However, our most important tradition is supporting our housemates by attending any of their recitals. We all sit together in the front row and have a little sign to show our support for the performer.

Welcome to Gettysburg College, Class of 2025!

This fall, we’re excited to welcome and live with our new residents, as well as introduce others to the College House program. The Blue Note Jazz House plans to host an open house event during Orientation, as well as events throughout the semester to engage with our community. Stop on by!

Living at Gettysburg College means learning and working in a safe, inclusive, and welcoming community. Learn more by exploring what our Office of Residential & First-Year Programs offers.

By Megan McCook ’23, economics major and music minor
Posted: 08/13/21