The flavor of Hill College House's annual International Food Night changed this year when President Judith Rodin came for a taste of college house life Oct. 1.
In the first in a series of visits to each of the 12 College Houses, Rodin spent the night in Hill, a sentimental choice because, as the student body president in her undergraduate days at Penn, she had actually dedicated Hill House, then a dorm for women only.
But first she had to offically sign in at the front desk. Once inside, she visited the tables where each of Hill's seventeen suites had prepared an international dish.
About half of the 500 Hill residents attended the event, with many wearing clothing from a variety of countries. Many students introduced themselves, and also took advantage of the opportunity to snap a photo. A Latin dance by Cristain Acosta, the Assistant to the Faculty Master, fired up the crowd.
As International Food Night came to a close, President Rodin toured the house.
At the computer lab, Rodin talked with Hill's computing managers, Eric Kow and Adam Kane, about the Information Technology Advisors (ITA) program, in its second year in Hill House.
In the Pit, Hill's commissary and recreational room, Rodin learned from Pit Manager Jamey Rorison about how profits from the commissary operation pay for the purchase and repair of house items, especially equipment for the exercise room.
She also walked through Hill's bomb shelter, flashlight in hand.
President Rodin then walked the halls, stopping in students' rooms and in a few of the lounges where students had gathered to study and socialize.
Conversation topics included sidewalk preacher Brother Steven on Locust Walk, the toast-throwing tradition at football games, how classes were going, and the Penn sports teams.
One student walked out of his room into the lounge, looked toward Rodin, and asked "Do you know anything about physics?"
She answered questions from numerous residents about her undergraduate Penn experience - the Pit was a study hall in her day, she had to wear a skirt to go to the dining hall, and she had an 11 o'clock curfew.
The students also wanted to know about her professional experience. Rodin talked about the classes that she had taught in the past here at Penn and at Yale, and how much she was looking forward to teaching one of SCUE's preceptorials this spring.
Eventually, Rodin visited the suite where her room for the night was located. About 20 people - all of the students in the suite and their graduate associate, Mike Hill - gathered informally around the table, drank tea and ate cookies while the students introduced themselves. They asked Rodin a wide variety of questions and talked of their experiences at Penn and in Hill. Rodin took an extreme interest in their thoughts and questions, and the atmosphere was very relaxed.
The evening proved to be a huge success and gave Rodin the opportunity to experience a College House event and interact with a number of Hill residents, while giving many of the residents the chance to talk with and get to know her.
Kristin Houston (EAS'01), coxswain for the women's crew team, is assisant to the Hill House dean.
Eric Bycer (EAS/W'99) is communications manager for Hill House.
Originally published on October 15, 1998