Making a "House" a Home

Franklin, Fairchild, Converse, Cranor…names familiar to many who live in campus housing. Pulled from Iowa State history, they serve as the foundation for a community structure that has served Cyclones since the years immediately following World War II.

“The house system acts as a supportive, involved community for residents to find somewhere to belong,” says Rachel Greifenkamp, Inter-Residence Hall Association president. “I have made some of my best friends in my house and clearly love it as I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”

In 1946, a growing number of students were coming to campus, many on the G.I. Bill. Friley Hall alone boasted 900 men—and undergraduate housing advisers recognized, that to provide residents with the guidance and support they needed, the adviser program needed expansion.

Bruce Widstrom, adviser chief at that time, had experienced the house system at his previous school, and thought that it could be adjusted to fit a large hall like Friley. In fall 1948, a trial run of the house system was introduced, with a permanent set-up agreed upon in February 1949.

“The house system is literally a very formalized version of self-governance,” says Rachel Wagner, associate director of Residence Life. “It’s an incredible first step in the university’s responsibility to educate students for citizenship.”

“At its core, Iowa State is a community in which every student finds a place where he or she belongs through a system of smaller communities—classes, clubs and organizations, majors, and housing,” says Greifenkamp. “As a new-to-campus freshman, the first community you are introduced to is your house. They become your neighbors and friends that go through your first year of college with you; they are your support system for homesickness, loneliness, class problems, and personal problems. They take the place of your family, often eating meals, doing homework, and spending a ton of time together.”


Want to learn more about life on campus? Read our Spring 2016 family newsletter!