|3900 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6138
House Office: 215.898.3677 • http://dubois.house.upenn.edu
"Celebrates its rich mosaic of engaged students"
Established in response to student demands in August 1972 initially as a two-floor residential living and learning program, amid protests and accusations of self-segregation, Du Bois College House has persevered and thrived. Previously known simply as Low Rise North, at the behest of students it officially became the W.E.B. Du Bois College House in February 1981. Its unique history and legacy has instilled a sense of pride in both its residents and alumni. This pride is evidenced in the physical environment of the House, in the spirit of the residents, and in the generosity of alumni who still consider Du Bois College House their “home away from home.”
From top to bottom, the House is adorned with majestic reminders of our legacy: a colorful mural in the 4th floor lounge praises our diversity; the walls of the Multi-Purpose Room document the history of the Black presence at Penn; and a multitude of photo exhibits in the Elliott Recreation Room applauds the success of our staff and students throughout the years. And pride was clearly on display at a recent Homecoming Reception when up to 200 alumni from every decade since the 1970’s joined dozens of current residents to celebrate the House’s continued existence. Through the Black Alumni Association (BAS), our alumni have made generous donations to the House, including a multi-million dollar endowed scholarship that financially supports four students each year.
Du Bois strives to adhere to its original mission to support students of the African Diaspora by serving as a hub for activities that promote African and African American scholarship and culture. With the help of residential faculty and staff, a very active student-governing body, and a dedicated network of proud alumni, the House achieves this goal through:
- Ongoing programming such as discussions with prominent scholars, many of whom are alumni of the House;
- An annual series of theme-based events on issues pertinent to the Black community;
- Outreach to our West Philadelphia neighbors by hosting and supporting their events;
- Community service initiatives such as the ASE program, an academic and cultural enrichment program started by Du Bois residents, and through which our undergraduates have mentored local sixth and seventh graders for the past fifteen years;
- The Paul Robeson Research Center, a library with over 4,000 items of rich cultural and historical significance, many of them donations from faculty, staff, and alumni;
- The Amistad Art Gallery, which exhibits the works of undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, and local artists.
Oftentimes referred to as “the UN of UPenn,” Du Bois College House offers all residents the opportunity to learn about cultures other than their own. We celebrate and recognize the diversity of our residents with annual events such as the festive Chinese New Year Celebration, and the African Cultures Celebration where Penn, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore students of all races come to Du Bois to show off their many African language skills through song, dance, and skits. The House also proudly supports the Natives at Penn’s spirited, traditional Pow-Wow each spring, and Makuu’s annual Kwanzaa Celebration in December. Last year, College House Fellow Dr. Audrey Mbeje initiated her “Ubuntu” series whereby residents were introduced to the therapeutic and healing effects of dance. The first event in the series featured a Nigerian dancer whose style was infused with West African, Modern, and Hip-Hop techniques. In the second event of the series, Penn's Indian dance troupe, Penn Thillana, explained how hand movements and rhythmic storytelling are sometimes used to work with autistic children in Indian cultures.
The smallest of the College Houses, Du Bois is also well-known as a “close-knit community.” This sense of intimacy is maintained through the many house-wide events put on by the House Council, the Graduate Associates, and the senior staff. Some are time honored programs that take place each year. These programs include the Annual Labor Day BBQ or Mexican Fiesta; the Eastern State Penitentiary’s Halloween Scream Night; the Thanksgiving Gala and Food Drive; the Super Bowl Watch Party; the Valentine's Day Celebration of Friendship; the 100 Days Celebration for graduating seniors; and our annual End of the Year Farewell and Celebration, which acknowledges the success of our seniors, as well as the contributions to the House of our undergaduate and graduate residents.
One of the primary goals of the staff is to introduce residents to the wealth of cultural, historical, and entertaining experiences available to them in our newly recognized World Heritage City of Philadelphia. Therefore, in addition to the above, Du Bois staff place priority on offering our undergraduates off-campus activities that will enhance their knowledge of the City of Brotherly Love, such as movie and theater outings, trips to restaurants and museums, and tickets to concerts and sporting events.
The senior staff, which consists of the Faculty Director, the House Dean and two College House Fellows, all work hard to provide students with opportunities to come together in a more intimate, relaxed environment to both learn and have fun. During one of our bi-weekly “Pie Nights,” award-winning author, professor, and W.E.B. Du Bois College House alum Dr. Lorene Carey came by for apple pie a la mode and an informal talk with residents. An avid fan of the writing of Toni Morrison, Faculty Director Rev. Will Gipson hosted in his apartment a weekly book club featuring several of her works. Students were offered the opportunity to lead the discussions, which were then followed by dinner. Known for her cooking and baking prowess, the House Dean, Ms. Trish Williams, often cooks for events instead of catering. Her Class Dinner Discussions offer residents the chance to select and then to discuss separately issues pertinent to first years, sophomore, juniors, and seniors with guest presenters, all while enjoying a home-cooked meal. However, Ms. Trish is probably most appreciated for her butterscotch brownies and her chocolate chip pancakes, which she offers up regularly during her “Students’ Request” study breaks.
Because of its mission and legacy, Du Bois has an extended family and network that reaches across campus and into the Philadelphia community. This, along with our spacious and well-kept facilities, fosters partnerships for programs and events with other departments and organizations. For example, classes as well as preceptorials have been held in our Multi-Purpose and Seminar Rooms. Having a large two-stove kitchen enables residents and guests to “cook up a storm.” The kitchen and MPR came in handy when PREC 710.001, French Macaron 101, was offered in the House. The macaron making class was led by Chef Tang of the Sugar Philly food truck and enrolled students got to eat the products of their learning: crisp and tender macarons.
Many of our programs and events are open to the Penn and Philadelphia communities. A recent example is the residential program Cultural Politics and Political Production (CPPP) event entitled “How Does it Feel to be a Problem?: The Black Community and Law Enforcement.” Undergraduate and graduate students from throughout campus, as well as our UPPD liaison, Detective Paul Sawicki, attended this hugely successful event, moderated by Dr. Clemmie Harris of the Center for Africana Studies. Currently, our CPPP leaders are busily working with the LGBT Center on a three-part series entitled, “Social Justice and Interlocking Oppressions,” with the kick-off event occurring as part of Penn’s MLK Symposium.
In addition to the above mentioned residential program, Cultural Politics and Political Production, Du Bois also has a second residential program, Du Bois FIT, a very active program for fitness, sports, and exercise enthusiasts. Volleyball, tag football, and yoga are all offered through this program. Last year our Du Bois FIT team won the College House Intramural basketball championship. Due to its smaller population and the fact that we are a close knit community, Du Bois is able to open its residential programs up to all residents. With no formal requirements, the two programs enable students to participate according to their own needs and schedules.