architectural rendering of Manzanita Park Residence Hall, east elevation

Architectural rendering of Humanities House in Manzanita Park; the residence is designed to serve as a hub for humanities programs and activities. (Image credit: Courtesy LBRE)

The first new undergraduate residence hall built on the Stanford campus in 20 years will house students interested in the humanities.

The new residence hall, called Humanities House, is under construction in Manzanita Park next to Lantana. It will open this fall to 125 upperclass students who apply to live there.

The residence will feature a mix of singles and two-room doubles, as well as a grand lounge, study spaces, seminar rooms, a multimedia lounge and a creative arts and project space. Construction will wrap up this summer.

Rodger Whitney, executive director of student housing, said students were invited to give their advice about how the facility should be designed.

“We are especially proud of the centerpiece of the residence: a large lounge with integrated kitchenette and adjacent outdoor cooking and gathering space,” said Whitney. “We hear from students that they like to ‘see and be seen,’ so we have removed walls wherever possible, creating large lounges, small lounges and nook-type spaces for studying or socializing. Common spaces throughout are designed with flexibility in mind.”

The residence will become the ninth language, culture or academic theme house within Stanford’s diverse residential system. Other theme houses focus on, for instance, global citizenship (Crothers Hall), human biology (Storey House) and the arts (Kimball Hall).

Making humanities central

Dan Edelstein, professor of French and Italian, will serve as the residential fellow for Humanities House, living in the dorm and helping support humanities-related programming and events.

“Humanities House presents a really exciting opportunity to rethink residential education and also to put the humanities at the center of what every undergraduate education should include,” said Edelstein.

“There are some great opportunities for event programming, notably through a partnership with the Stanford Humanities Center,” he said. “More than anything, though, we want to find ways to encourage students to continue exploring their intellectual passions together in more informal settings.”

Edelstein said he hopes Humanities House programming will attract all undergraduates, not just residents and not just students majoring in humanities-related subjects.

He added, “No matter what your major, college is the time to reflect on the fullness of your life, and the humanities provide the most and, I would add, the best questions, arguments, suggestions and models for engaging in this quest. My greatest hope for Humanities House is that it becomes a place for all Stanford undergraduates to pass through in order to be propelled a little further along the path of self-discovery, which is education.”

Reversing a trend

The new residence hall is part of a larger, concentrated effort to reverse the decline in humanities enrollments over the past decade – a trend reflected to various degrees across the country. Other efforts include such new academic programs as CS+X, which enables joint majors combining computer science and humanities-related subjects. Stanford is also working to provide more robust career services for humanities students and to better communicate the ways in which a humanities background is sought after by employers.

Jeff Schwegman, humanities and arts initiatives coordinator in the School of Humanities and Sciences, says Humanities House is an important way to ensure that students who want to major in the humanities feel supported.

“A residential community can play a big role in ensuring the success of an academic program,” Schwegman said. “If students don’t feel intellectually supported by their peers, they can lose confidence in their academic interests. We worry that we may be losing some potential majors for this reason, and we felt that a humanities dorm would help provide these students with the intellectual community they need to thrive.”

Students who have taken advantage of Structured Liberal Education, a liberal arts residential program in Florence Moore Hall, or Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture (ITALIC), an arts-focused residential program in Burbank House, may be natural fits for Humanities House.

But Edelstein and Schwegman said they hope the attraction to Humanities House will be far greater, including, for instance, students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields with extensive requirements, who can find it hard to take courses in other subjects that they find intellectually interesting.

“There are, for instance, engineering majors at Stanford whose schedules are heavily concentrated on requirements, but who also love the humanities,” said Schwegman. “Living in Humanities House would give a student like that an extracurricular way to explore his or her interests.”