On a chilly November night, a pig roasts over a pit fire on the lawn outside Smith Hall, and a line of brightly colored flags ripple in the wind. Inside the international residence hall, the inviting earthy scents of ethnic cuisine encourage students to learn about the heritages of their dormmates.
The international food feast at Smith Hall is just one of a number of activities the dorm sponsors in conjunction with its theme of international living. And many other dormitories at UNH are catching on to the concept with themes of their own.
Themed living communities allow students to live in an environment that reflects their academic or extracurricular interests. Ruth Abelmann, associate director of residential life, says in the last few years the idea has taken off.
Hundreds of students across campus now opt to live in themed dorms. This year, some of the most popular themes at UNH are "Chem Free" at Engelhardt Hall, community service and involvement at Richardson House, "Living in Harmony" at Devine Hall, as well as international living at Smith Hall. Two new themes this year are visual arts and a community for freshmen with undeclared majors.
Gibbs Hall has a new themed community called "The Clubhouse" for students interested in recreational sports.
Hubbard Hall has two themes, one for students who are in the Honors program, and "Scholars," for students looking to live with others who are academically focused.
Hall director David Wilmes says the goal of themed dorms is increased "satisfaction and success, with both their housing and UNH as a whole." And he thinks it's working.
Jeffrey Sturtevant '06 can attest to that: a aresident of science-and-engineering-themed Sackett House for almost two years, he says, "The best thing about living here is that you can get assistance with class work fairly easily, since the majority of the residents' majors are in the science and engineering field."