'Houses' Offer Students a Unique NYC Experience

Taylor McHugh and students

International House Peer Leader Taylor McHugh tells a group of students about some of the activities planned for the fall.

Bill Offutt and students

Students line up to hand their forms in to Bill Offutt, making them official ‘House’ members.

For the first time this fall, incoming Dyson College freshmen on the New York City campus have the opportunity to join one of two (conceptual, not physical) “Houses” allowing them a chance to meet other students who share their interests.

Both Houses plan to have weekly offerings based around a central theme. Gotham House members will explore New York City, focusing on its major cultural landmarks, while those in International House (or IHOP as it has already been dubbed – “International House of Pace”) will view New York through an international lens.

“Hogwarts really informed the concept,” explained Dr. Bill Offutt, Associate Professor of History, mastermind of the pilot program. “I’ve been influenced by Harry Potter.”

 Dean Nira Herrmann and various Dyson faculty and staff have been brainstorming ways to engage “mainstream” students, who are sometimes “the forgotten middle.” Students in the Pforzheimer Honors College, of which Dr. Offutt is faculty advisor, and the students in the Challenge to Achieve at Pace (CAP) program often have a variety of special programming. Dyson freshmen on the Westchester campus can participate in university-wide First Year Program initiatives like the “Quest for the Cup.”

Meanwhile, the vast majority of Dyson students on the New York City campus have fallen somewhere in the middle and haven’t historically been offered the same number of outside-the-classroom community activities.

“I think Pace can be a hard place for people who aren’t used to the city,” said Meghana Nayak, who will serve as Don for International House. “I went to a really small college and I remember there were always these activities where I had a sense of belonging, so I really wanted to participate in seeing that happen here, and also in introducing them to looking at the city in a different way.”

Nayak, Assistant Professor of Political Science, was a natural choice for Don of International House, having served as faculty advisor to the Model UN up until last year.

“I like working with first year students and I feel it’s important to have something centered on international issues.  Plus I think International House would potentially offer international students a home within the university,” Nayak said.

Some of International House’s activities include attending film festivals and museums around the city. Students will also explore different ethnic neighborhoods throughout New York on walking tours.

Gotham House students will explore New York through a culture crawl and blogging contest in October, and hear about the fight for public space at a panel discussion in November, among other planned activities.

“Gotham House is for students who are interested in taking full advantage of living and learning in one of the most fast-moving, exciting, diverse cities in the world,” explained Don Ida Dupont, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Human Services. “Students in Gotham House will explore all that makes New York unique and exciting.  In addition, students will learn more about the challenges New York faces and the ways in which we can make the city a better place for ourselves and others.”

The two Houses will sometimes have joint programs including a competitive poetry slam, a voter registration drive, and a Jeopardy-like trivia contest. Other programs will be open to the entire university, and sometimes the larger community.

In November, International House, along with the Pforzheimer Honors College and the Political Science department, will sponsor a lecture by Eddie Daniels, a former Apartheid prisoner, who spent time in prison with Nelson Mandela.

Both House Dons also plan to arrange “internships for a day” in the spring.

“We’re going to be really open to what the students are interested in,” Nayak added. 

Taylor McHugh ‘10 is the peer advisor for International House.

 “Basically, I’m there to let them know what’s going on so they can direct their questions to me, and make sure they have the best experience possible,” explained McHugh, who is also an orientation leader. “I like working with the freshmen students. I’ve been a peer leader previously in CAP. I enjoy being able to help and I just want them to have the experience that I’ve had so far.”

McHugh said the students she has met so far at orientation are really excited about joining the Houses.

“They’re looking forward to the semester. I think they all have that excitement to come to Pace,” McHugh said.