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Letter from the Directors of College Houses and Academic Services

Dear GA Candidate,

Over half of Penn undergraduates reside in the twelve College Houses, where freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors from all four undergraduate schools live together.  Living alongside these students – as their neighbors, mentors, and academic advisors - are faculty members (faculty directors and fellows); professional staff (House Deans), and, yes, graduate students – who are appointed Graduate Associates (GAs).  This diverse and dynamic intellectual community results in a stimulating living environment, where academic events (in-house lectures, debates, workshops, etc.) are nevertheless playful; and where fun programs (movies, athletics, television) often unexpectedly provide memorable learning experiences.

Becoming part of this community as a GA provides a uniquely rich encounter with Penn, one completely unlike that of the average graduate student, who gets to know only a few people in his or her department.  By contrast, GAs often remark on how much better they understand Penn and many different kinds of people they’ve gotten to know because of their GA position.  When used to good advantage, moreover, the position can enhance a graduate student's academic and professional credentials significantly. College House GAs find challenging and profoundly rewarding opportunities to deepen their engagement with Penn's academic life through their mentoring of undergraduates, their friendships with College House faculty and professional staff, the informal teaching opportunities available to them, and the creative use of their own academic interests in shaping their work in the House.  As a GA you can expect to learn new skills and develop as a leader and teacher, at the same time that you find a supportive environment in which to do your work and make friends from across campus.

Fellowship awards from all schools are made independently of College House Graduate Associate appointments. In addition, some schools’ orientation and curricular requirements conflict with College House training and work responsibilities.  Please ask your academic program advisor both about the financial as well as the academic impact a position with College Houses might have on you.

Because every College House has its own distinct personality, we encourage you to investigate each of them thoroughly and perhaps pay them a visit before applying or interviewing. That said, it's important to bear in mind that with the changes in the House populations from year to year there comes a subtle shift in the tone of each community. As a GA who brings to bear all of your many talents, interests, and experiences, you will add your own special effect on the community that adopts you, and thus on the overall tone of the House and its programming.  It is an exciting and invigorating process. We wish you the best of luck in applying to the College Houses!

Thank you for your interest in joining the staff of College Houses & Academic Services.

Prof. Dennis DeTurck
Professor of Mathematics
Robert A. Fox Leadership Professor
Faculty Director, College Houses & Academic Services

Martin Redman
Executive Director, College Houses & Academic Services