Life at Hobart and William Smith Colleges is that of a thriving and diverse community built from a select student enrollment and a distinguished faculty to produce an atmosphere conducive to individual effort and achievement. In co-curricular, as in academic matters, students play a major role in the student experience. From overseeing many organizations and co-curricular programs to assisting in enforcing community guidelines in their residence halls, students are involved in shaping the campus lifestyle. Many campus committees encourage student membership, and two students – one senior from each college – are voting members of the Colleges' Board of Trustees.
A Residential Community
Hobart and William Smith Colleges are a residential campus. The Colleges seek to provide students with a comfortable and attractive living environment, designed to support the Colleges' mission and fostering a diverse community based on strong interpersonal skills, moral reasoning, sense of self, and well-being.
A variety of single-college, mixed college, and gender-inclusive residences, including theme houses, cooperatives, townhouses, and traditional residence halls are available. Over 20 theme houses exist on our campus including those with focuses on community service, campus leadership, substance-free living, international student success, and more. These are student-initiated themes and many change year to year based on student interest.
All students are required to live in college residences. Housing for first-year students is based on multiple factors, including learning community selections, substance-free housing preferences, preferences for single-college housing, and First-Year Seminar courses. After the first year, students select their own housing assignments by participating in the housing process conducted during spring semester. A limited number of seniors may be eligible to live off campus provided they show a dedication to positive citizenship and responsibility while living in the Geneva community. Students who abuse this responsibility may lose their privilege to reside off-campus.
Members of Greek organizations are eligible to reside in Colleges-operated Greek Housing. These houses may vary year to year based on organization type. Greek Life is available for students of all genders.
All residential students except those residing in co-op theme houses, specific Greek organizations, and independent living environments (Village at Odell's Pond and 380 South Main) are required to participate in a full meal plan. The dining service offers a varied menu, selected to accommodate regular, vegetarian, and special diets. Participating students may take their meals in Saga Hall in the Scandling Campus Center. All first-year students are required to participate in the Finger Lakes meal plan. Students in small or themed houses have a choice of one of smaller meal plans which provide additional snack money and flexibility since a majority of their meals may be in residence. Students residing in Greek housing or co-op small houses may waive the meal plan. All meal plan changes must be completed via a student's housing portal based on the established deadlines posted at the beginning of each semester.
Alcohol and Other Drug Programs
The HWS Community takes a strong stance on the safety of our students around the topic of alcohol and other drug (AOD) use. Different offices within the Division of Campus Life, including Student Engagement, Campus Safety and Student Conduct put on a number of programs to promote AOD drug safety and education. These programs help promote harm reduction for all students at the Colleges through substance-free events to engage with. Through a campus social norms approach, students learn about their peer’s values and attitudes toward alcohol and other drugs.
Additionally, to aid in AOD safety, the Colleges promote a medical amnesty policy for HWS students. More information on this policy can be found in The Handbook of Community Standards.
Hobart Student Government and William Smith Congress work collaboratively to represent the student body. The governments have three major functions: being a student voice on campus committees, allocating student activity fee funding to student initiatives, registered student clubs, and club sports, and leading discussions with students about campus life.
The Davis Gallery at Houghton House hosts six art exhibitions each year beginning with a faculty exhibition and ending the year with a show of student work created in studio art and architectural studies courses. In between, exhibitions include works by artists with international reputations, as well as those early in their careers. There are also a number of smaller exhibitions and pop-up galleries held throughout the year in the Solarium Gallery at Houghton House. Students enrolled in curatorial practicum courses organize an exhibition drawn from the Colleges' art collection, research and write a catalog for that exhibition, and study the collection to choose a work for acquisition, while also discussing the history and ethics of museums. In addition, the student driven Provenzano art gallery can be found in the Scandling Campus Center.
An opening reception is held for each exhibition in the gallery. Openings are generally held on Thursday evenings and include a reception for the artist as well as a gallery talk. These are important social and cultural occasions open to the campus and local community. In addition, classes regularly visit and discuss these exhibits.
Dance and Movement Studies
Opportunities abound for students interested in studying dance technique, performing in student or faculty led ensembles, participating in guest artist master classes, learning backstage tech production skills, or attending any of the faculty, student, or guest artist dance performances.
The Department of Dance and Movement Studies offers a range of ballet, modern, Diasporic and jazz dance courses each semester. Additionally, theory courses in dance composition/choreography, dance history, kinesiology, improvisation, embodied writing, and arts education are offered on a regular basis. Students may elect to pursue a disciplinary major in Performance and Choreography, or interdisciplinary majors with particular concentrations such as Dance Education, Movement Studies, or Theory and Performance Studies. Also offered are disciplinary and interdisciplinary minors in Dance and Movement Studies. Department courses are open to all HWS students regardless of major or minor status.
The Department of Dance and Movement Studies has four full-time faculty members, additional adjunct faculty, accompanists, and a technical director/lighting designer. The department is housed within the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts; spaces include the Deming Dance Theatre, Studio 104, a somatics studio, a seminar-style classroom, costume suite, faculty offices, student lounge and dressing rooms. The department continues to use Winn Seeley dance studio for classes and rehearsals.
Dance Ensemble, the department’s performance company, is showcased annually in Kinespheres, the spring Faculty Dance Concert, in contemporary works by faculty and guest artists, through participation in a Dance Ensemble course. Auditions for the concert take place in October prior to Spring Semester registration. Other performance events throughout the year include informal studio showcases and an adjudicated Junior/Senior Choreographers Concert.
Recent guest artists and visiting dance companies offering master classes and/or concerts on campus have included Kyle Abraham, Camille A Brown, Darrah Carr, Kinetic Light, Koresh Dance, Step Afrika, and Cerqua Rivera. Annually the department selects students to participate in the American College Dance Association Conference, where students have the opportunity to take classes and perform student and faculty choreography for national adjudicators.
In addition to the department’s offerings above, there are many dance opportunities at HWS through student created clubs such as Hip-NotiQs (step team), Kinetic Dance Collective (multiple dance styles), and the Executives (hip-hop). Interested students of all levels of experience are encouraged to discover dance in its myriad forms and become involved in the HWS dance community.
Students have many opportunities to take private music lessons and to participate in musical ensembles through the Department of Music. Private music lessons are available for each of the following: piano (classical or jazz), guitar (classical or jazz/rock), voice, woodwinds (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, or jazz saxophone), violin, viola, cello, brass, organ, percussion, drum set, and jazz improvisation.
As of 2023-24, the per-semester fee for 14 half-hour weekly lessons is $420. Students may take hour-long weekly lessons if they prefer, or half-hour lessons on two separate instruments. In such cases, the per-semester fee is $840 ($420 x 2).
Half-hour music lessons through the Department of Music earn 1/2 credit per semester (or a full credit for students taking for an hour). The process for registering for private instruction is explained on the Music Departments web site: https://www.hws.edu/academics/music/instruction.aspx. It is recommended that students reserve a lesson time slot with the appropriate teacher as early as possible, preferably during the preceding semester.
Students may participate in one or more of the departmental ensembles. Ensembles include Classical Guitar Ensemble, Jazz Guitar Ensemble, String Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Improvisation Ensemble, Chorale, and Community Chorus. There is no fee for ensemble membership. Membership in each ensemble is by audition. Participation in each departmental ensemble earns 1/2 credit per semester. To register formally for an ensemble, students must schedule an audition with the appropriate director.
The Department of Music also hosts a number of guest artist performances on campus each year. In addition, HWS students are admitted for free to all concerts in the local "Geneva Concerts" series at the nearby Smith Center for the Arts. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as a wide range of other guest artists, present concerts each year through this series. Finally, student clubs are encouraged to organize regional outings to performing arts events in Rochester, Ithaca and Syracuse.
Share spaces. Raise voices. Craft stories. Make theatre. HWS Theatre offers opportunities to make and study theatre in the classroom, on stage, and in the community and creates a wide array of theatre-going experiences for local audiences. The Theatre Department offers a major and two minors (one disciplinary and one interdisciplinary) and produces three main stage faculty-directed shows per year in McDonald Theatre in the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts or elsewhere in the community. Productions such as Much Ado About Nothing, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (30 Plays in 60 Minutes), Waiting for Godot, The Servant of Two Masters, 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, The Etymology of Bird, and a range of original work written or devised by students, attest to the department's emphasis on producing a broad range of plays from diverse eras, perspectives, and theatrical styles. In conjunction with the active production season, the department regularly hosts guest artists and scholars and coordinates trips to see professional theatre in the region.
The Theatre Department organizes a short-term study abroad program in Bali, which explores theatre, music, and dance. HWS Theatre regularly partners with community organizations including Geneva Theatre Guild, Historic Geneva, and The Smith Opera House. For five summers the department has hosted the Quick Silver Theater Company’s Playwrights of Color Summit. Finally, The Phoenix Players is a student-run theatre organization, which presents a variety of work designed, directed, and sometimes written by students.
Visiting Speakers and Performers
Although academic departments and programs and administrative offices play an important role in providing a wide variety of cultural offerings, many campus events are initiated, funded, and organized by students. Many clubs and organizations sponsor a varied program of speakers and performers. Visitors to campus have included Dr. Wangari Maathai, P'94, P'96, Sc.D. '94, Cornel West, Brad Falchuk '93, L.H.D. '14, Cecile Richards, James Carville LL.D. '13, P'17, Cantor David S. Wisnia, Jim Hightower, Carol M. Browner, David Gergen L.H.D. ‘15, Helen Thomas, Savannah Guthrie L.H.D. '12 and President Bill Clinton.
Club sports include alpine skiing, baseball, bowling, CrossFit, equestrian, fencing, figure skating, ice hockey, lacrosse, rugby, ultimate frisbee, and more. If a club sport isn’t active, the Colleges will work with students to create new opportunities for engagement.
These sports are organized under the Office of Student Engagement and do not carry varsity or intercollegiate status. The Office of Student Engagement can help guide you through the steps to create a new club at HWS. More information and a list of HWS Clubs can be found online.
The Office for Spiritual Engagement (OSE) located in St. John's Chapel serves the campus as a center for spiritual practice and care, offering hospitality and programming related to service, global justice, education, reflection, and worship.
The Chaplain and the Director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life serve as on-campus pastors, teachers, counselors, and resource persons. Students seek them out to talk over personal and family crises, relationship problems, questions of belief and practice, adjustment issues, faith and politics, sexuality, and many other topics. The Chaplain is a member of the faculty, with a courtesy appointment in the Religious Studies Department. She invites students into her home regularly for Pasta Night and other special events. The Abbe Center serves a kosher Shabbat dinner every Friday evening during the academic year.
Weekly services offered by campus groups include Episcopal, Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Muslim traditions.
St. John's Chapel and Hobart College have historic and continuing ties with the Episcopal Church. Hobart and William Smith Colleges are members of the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion. The Chaplain, who serves all members of the HWS community regardless of religious affiliation, is an Episcopal priest. The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester serves on the Board of Trustees. Holy Eucharist in the chapel is available Sunday evenings when classes are in session and open to all regardless of denomination.
The clergy of the Roman Catholic Community of Geneva work in association with the Spiritual Engagement Office to provide services to Catholic students. In addition to saying weekly Masses in the Chapel during the academic year, they are available to meet with students.
The Muslim Faculty and Students offer weekly Jumu'ah Prayer in the Muslim Life Center every Friday along with other Muslim religious observance programming in coordination with the Muslim Student Association.
Updated information about on-campus programming and local congregations may be found on the Spiritual Engagement website.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges are committed to the idea that civic engagement plays a central role in fostering students' personal and social development and is a vital component in a liberal arts education. Through participation in community service, students' assumptions are challenged, their perspectives are broadened, their voices strengthened, and they learn to become more active and engaged citizens. The Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning (CCESL) is at the heart of this enterprise and offers a robust number of community inclusive and collaborative programs. The Center stands for learning through service that produces students who are civically engaged and graduates who are active, global citizens. A dedicated cohort of CCESL Civic Leaders work with staff to provide one-time and re-occurring civic engagement opportunities that help students build the skills necessary for active citizenship. Students learn about opportunities during First-Year orientation when they serve with partners throughout Geneva and the Finger Lakes, via the Compass Times e-newsletter, and from Civic Leader peer outreach.
HWS is a proud member of Partners for Campus Community Engagement (www.pcce.org) a multi-state coalition which “since 1993 has helped lead the charge to advance equitable, place-based community engagement, provided grant support for campuses, and developed innovating professional development for members in NY and PA."
The Colleges' commitment to service was recognized with inclusion as one of 81 colleges in the Princeton Review's inaugural edition of "Colleges with a Conscience" and has been consistently named to the Top five for Community Service in the Washington Monthly. In 2010 and again in 2020, the Center applied for and earned the Carnegie Community Engagement classification, one of only 28 baccalaureate colleges to gain the designation. HWS has also consistently ranked in the top five among small schools on the Peace Corps' list for "Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities" and HWS is one of only 100 colleges to match AmeriCorps education awards when applied toward tuition.
Through HWS Compass, students are encouraged to explore the many facets of service to society. A four-tiered program, Compass provides experiences in community service, civic engagement, and civic leadership that chart the course to a life of engaged citizenship. CCESL connects students to service and engagement opportunities on campus, in Geneva and in the Finger Lakes region.
These experiences are often threaded into course learning objectives, referred to as service-learning classes, and are meant to help students develop citizenship skills such as leadership, self-awareness, and recognizing societal needs, while making a material change that will help address community identified challenges with support from CCESL. Several departments offer service-learning classes, including Sociology, Architecture, Public Policy, Education, Religious Studies, Psychology, Economics, Environmental Studies, Dance, and History. These classes offer students an experiential component within the overall academic course. Through engaging classroom discussions combined with outside of class reflection, students relate their service experience to the course content, thereby enriching their classroom learning. Many of these service-learning opportunities and community-based research projects segue into a paid Summer of Service Internship placements, where students work in immersive experiences with local community partners to extend traditional academic year commitments as well as maximize the non-profit's mission and outreach efforts.
Located on the second floor of Trinity Hall, the CCESL also oversees the HWS Tutor Corps, programs that were established in 1989 and which mobilize more than 100 HWS tutors annually to work in local elementary schools, the Boys and Girls Club of Geneva, and after-school programs as part of their Federal work-study financial aid package. Alternative Spring Break trips are week-long opportunities for HWS students who are interested in working with children in a North Carolina school, helping with environmental projects at a state park in Virginia, and learning about public policies that impact rural farm workers in Lyons, NY. CCESL spearheads the annual Community Donation Effort, with support from other departments, where thousands of items donated by students at the conclusion of the academic year are recycled, redistributed, or sold. Since 2006, the effort has helped ensure items find a second use at local non-profit organizations, and has diverted more than 100,000 pounds of materials from local landfills.
Many groups on campus direct their efforts toward community engagement. A campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity assists area affiliates with fundraising and home building and the Interact Club is affiliated with the Geneva Rotary Club. Students coordinate a variety of service projects including the annual Holiday Gift Project that provides gifts to local families in need and engages with the Community Lunch Program (local soup kitchen). HWS Votes! is the campus voter registration and education program and remains active in voter engagement opportunities regardless of the election year cycle. CCESL happily supports any athletic teams, fraternities, and student groups that wish to engage in the local community.
In April 1994, a group of HWS students, faculty, and staff joined with many local community members to organize "Celebrate Service, Celebrate Geneva Day of Service," a day of community service that mobilized more than 250 volunteers to provide community service at approximately 50 sites across Geneva. Days of Service has since expanded to four days a year (including during Orientation and a Martin Luther King Jr., service day project) and continues to organize more than 1,000 campus and community volunteers annually.
CCESL also facilitates Geneva 2030, a collective impact initiative which engages the entire community in an effort that supports students from the ‘cradle to career’ in our community. A cornerstone of that program, named "College + Career Bound with HWS" entails bringing all 2nd, 6th and 9th graders to campus in a college immersion and career awareness day. Geneva 2030 is part of the national Strive Together network and was highlighted in the successful application for Geneva to be recognized as an All-America City by the National Civic League.
The ripple effect of civic involvement and service-learning can be far reaching and have both a personal and community impact. Service-learning collaborations and exceptional examples of civic partnership are highlighted at the annual Community Engaged Scholarship Forum. Whatever major or career a student chooses to pursue, the programs of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, through its Compass program, can help to point them toward a life of engaged citizenship. The entire community is invited to follow us on social media, visit our website, or visit CCESL in Trinity 203.
Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation
Hobart and William Smith Athletics seek to afford experience in intercollegiate sports to as many students as possible. Annually, about one third of the HWS student body participates in intercollegiate athletics. Some participate on more than one team. While student-athletes are encouraged to strive to fulfill their athletic potential, emphasis is placed on achieving a healthy balance between their scholastic and athletic endeavors. The broad-based program receives excellent support in the areas of equipment, facilities, staff, strength and conditioning, and sports medicine. Under the supervision of the Department of Athletics, HWS fields intercollegiate teams in basketball, cross country, football, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, sailing, soccer, squash, swimming and diving, and tennis. WS Soccer provides a junior varsity program as well. HWS is a member of Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and competes in this division in all sports except Hobart Lacrosse which, since 1995, has competed at the Division I level.
Recreation, Intramurals and Fitness
Hobart and William Smith Colleges Department of Recreation, Intramurals, and Fitness operates out of an 83,000 square-feet multi-purpose facility, consisting of a fitness center/weight room area, group fitness and indoor cycling room, an indoor track, and a full-size artificial playing field that converts to five tennis and four basketball courts. Robert A. Bristol Field House was built in 1989 and adjoins with the Elliott Varsity House and the Dr. Frank P. Smith ‘36 Squash Center. A full sized lacrosse soccer field indoor dome facility was added in 2019 . The Recreation Department offers inclusive programs and services for participants to increase their daily activity, improve their quality of life, and enhance their knowledge on the value of health and fitness. Primarily these offerings consist of open recreation activities, group fitness classes, intramural sports, special events, and external membership services.
Outdoor Recreation Adventure Program (ORAP)
ORAP provides both structured and unstructured recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts in the Hobart and William Smith Colleges community. In addition, a concerted effort is made to introduce novices to a variety of outdoor activities. This program sponsors a combination of courses, clinics, and outings throughout the school year. Examples of instructional courses and outings include hiking and backpacking, kayaking, ice climbing, Nordic skiing, spelunking and rock climbing. Dates and times of programs are publicized and a fee is charged to cover equipment and administrative costs. A resource center, located in the second level of the barn includes a rock wall and an equipment rental system.