One of Haverford’s most defining aspects is its yearlong Customs program, designed to give first-year students an introduction to the College and a sense of belonging from the moment they step foot on campus in August to the moment their boxes are packed in May for the summer ahead.
It is in the spirit of continuing the conversations around place, identity, and purpose that permeate Customs that SoHo, short for Sophomore House, was created. With a focus on combating the “sophomore slump” and helping to guide peers through social and academic life on campus, SoHo is a multifaceted program that consists of a “living and learning community” of six current members of the class of 2021. Each student lives in Apartment 11 and works an on-campus internship centered around an aspect of student life.
“The six of us come from all over the world and have many different interests, both academic and socially,” said Alexander Venturini ’21. “I think this gives us a great variety of viewpoints, which helps us think about the needs of the entire community.”
“In creating SoHo,” said Dean of Student Engagement & Leadership Initiatives Michael Elias, “our intention was to create a greater system of support for the sophomore class, and, in doing that, give the sophomores more opportunity to explore some of the academic questions and other things that come up during that year.”
SoHo residents and their on-campus internships are Tanisha Bansal ’21 and Xiangruo Dai ’21, who work in the Office of Multicultural Affairs; Dexter Coen Gilbert ’21, who works in the Office of Student Life; Xiangruo Dai ’21, who works in the Office of Academic Resources; Alexandra Iglesia ’21, who works in the Office of International Academic Programs; Venturini, who works in the Center for Career and Professional Advising; and Sydney Woods ’21, who works in the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship.
“We want to be able to foster more conversations about what it looks like when sophomores take over student organizations, take leadership on student government, or are interested in going abroad, so their internships are intentionally paired with offices that we think will be able to lend more of that support about causes that are relevant to their lives are students,” Elias said.
“Working in the Student Life Office is wonderful,” said Coen Gilbert. “I get to spend time almost every day with [staff] who really care about the students and want to make their lives on campus the best they possibly can be. And, I regularly meet new students as they come into the office looking for information, assistance, and SEPTA tickets. It’s honestly just such a great job and I’m so happy I get to be a part of it.”
Each and every member of SoHo plays an active role in designing, planning, and executing events for sophomores that seek to support fellow students during the year. So far, SoHo has hosted Bubble Tea at SoHo, for sophomores to meet the six residents and get introduced to the goals of the program; an Ice Cream Social, for sophomores to meet with their deans and have a sweet treat on Founders Green; a Movie Night to help students unwind; SoHow ‘Bout We Discuss Majors, an event for sophomores to chat with juniors and seniors across dozens of departments about potential major opportunities; an open house in the Office of Academic Resources, and a conversation about double-majoring with Dean of Academic Affairs Philip Bean. (Continued after the gallery.)
“I think my favourite part about SoHo lies in the essence of what it is trying to achieve,” said Bansal. “After having Customs all of first year, the transition to sophomore year can be challenging for many. Not only is SoHo trying to help support students through this transition but is also aiming to improve the experiences of sophomores through academic support, social events, and focusing on health and wellness.”
As SoHo is a new initiative for the 2018–2019 academic year, the Haverford community is excited about the promise of the program. To celebrate the end of the fall semester, SoHo is organizing an open house for students to come and relax during finals week with plenty of snacks and activities.
“We didn’t really know what to expect since it’s the pilot year of the program,” said Elias, “but it seems like the sophomore class has been really open to SoHo, and we are so grateful to the actual SoHo members for hitting the ground running with ideas and programs this semester.”
Photos by Dex Coen Gilbert ’21 and Patrick Montero.