On the far west side of campus lies a place that, for many Stanford students, is shrouded in mystery, existing only as an optional essay question on the required freshman housing application forms. Rumors abound that FroSoCo students are nerdy, introverted freshmen and sophomores hidden away on the fringes of Stanford, but few know exactly what the clever acronym is or what the residence represents.
According to the Stanford University Residential Education website, FroSoCo, or Freshman Sophomore College, “provides the vibrant residential intellectual community of a small, elite, liberal-arts college while providing enhanced access to the academic resources of one of the world’s premier research universities.” But where did this idea come from, and what exactly does that mean?
The program was implemented during the 1999-2000 academic year by John Bravman, the former vice provost for undergraduate education at Stanford. Bravman wanted to add a residential component to undergraduate education at Stanford, and he did so by combining two traditional Stanford dorms—Adams and Schiff—to create the college. Bravman acted as the college’s dean until 2010, when he left Stanford to become president of Bucknell University. Dr. Nadeem Hussain ’90 took over Bravman’s position and now lives with his wife across the street from the college.
Hussain, a philosophy professor, explained FroSoCo as Stanford’s version of the colleges of Yale and houses of Harvard, which themselves were inspired by the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. The goal was to give students “at a big research university like Stanford the feel of a small college,” Hussain said.
“[Schiff and Adams] weren’t just stuck together and given a label, they were given a purpose,” he continued.
FroSoCo sets itself apart from other freshman dorms by providing “social activities involving more than one dorm” and “an environment to get to know faculty better,” Hussain said.
One way that it does this is by having a much larger staff than other dorms. The student staff consists of eight College Assistants (FroSoCo’s version of Residential Assistants, or RAs), two Residential Computer Consultants (RCCs), one Resident Media Coordinator (the only one on campus), one Peer Health Educator (PHE), two subject tutors, one writing tutor and an Oral Communication Tutor. In addition, the Stanford faculty involved with FroSoCo include two College Directors (FroSoCo’s version of Resident Fellows) for each house, the College Program Associate, the Director of the Oral Communications Program and the College Dean and his partner. These 24 staff members serve a total of about 100 freshman and 60 sophomores, a much larger faculty-to-student ratio than the typical seven or eight staff members found in an 80 to 85-person freshman dorm.
FroSoCo utilizes these many staff members, plus a larger allocation of funds than other dorms have, to provide social and academic opportunities that are not offered elsewhere on campus. Such opportunities include Dean’s Dinners, in which different guests and faculty take part in a one-hour open talk and then a more intimate dinner with a dozen or so FroSoCo students, who sign up on a first come, first serve basis.
FroSoCo also offers the Sophomore Fellows Program, in which resident sophomores teach unique non-credit classes for students. Hussein described a recent class that focused on gun control and culminated in a trip to a gun range.
George Tsiveriotis ’13, a FroSoCo alum who now lives in a row house, said he chose to live in FroSoCo his freshman year because “it was the best of both worlds, with lots of freshman, but not all four classes—just sophomores to guide you.”
Though he chose to not live in FroSoCo as a sophomore (all freshmen in FroSoCo can automatically be placed there for their sophomore year), he admitted that “most of the people I hang out with this year are from FroSoCo last year.” He feels that FroSoCo is quieter, more isolated and more introverted than other freshman housing on campus, but also noted the benefit of having the opportunity to meet everyone there.
“I feel more connected to it now that I don’t live there,” he said, “and [I] would love to go back senior year to staff.”
Current Schiff residents Halsey Hoster ’14 and Melis Tekant ‘14 described FroSoCo as a good freshman residence due to the small community the college offers. However, they both agreed that while they aren’t unhappy with the choice, neither was sure if they would do it again.
“It’s harder to keep close friends who live on East campus,” Hoster said. “If you live in FroSoCo, your closer friends are from FroSoCo.”
The two girls described the typical FroSoCo student as an engineering major or techie and said that most don’t want to go out very often. They feel “socially far away” from the rest of campus and describe themselves as the techie version of SLE kids, except that none of their extra programming is required.
Cisco Barrón ’04, who will be one of the new College Directors at FroSoCo next year and is a FroSoCo alum himself, looks back on his time at the college as a “very positive experience.” He described the students in FroSoCo as “enthusiastic, engaging, freethinking, tightly knit and quirky,” and in his new position next year hopes to “articulate and disseminate” FroSoCo’s vision “so more students are aware of what we do and how we do it.”
While FroSoCo is much more intricate and complex than one may initially realize, it may still remain a mystery to many students in its corner of the campus. However, the lack of awareness goes both ways.
Most students at FroSoCo are “not sure about how it is over at Wilbur or Stern,” Hoster said.