In 1996, 45% of all female engineers at Purdue University changed majors and moved out of the engineering program. Their primary reason: a lack of support from their peers. Already a minority in the engineering program, female oriented study programs, support groups, and extracurricular activities were few and far between. In response to this need, Devonshire House was formed.
Originally the brain-child of seven freshman friends, Devonshire House had humble beginnings. The friends realized that an effective way to combat the excessive female drop-out rate would be to establish a setting for female engineers, a setting that would provide strong intellectual, academic, and emotional support. It would be a place where members could find assistance with their homework from women who completed the same courses, a place that women could polish their communication and teamwork skills, become more responsible for their community and campus, and find the support and friendship of other women excelling at the same things that they were. As time progressed, Devonshire opened itís doors to females in the schools of Science, Technology, Health Sciences, and Agriculture, as well as Engineering. Ultimately, it was decided that co-operative housing would fit the situation well.
Establishing the House, however, was a long and involved task. The friends first elected officers and picked two faculty - Mrs. Judith Nixon and Dr. Janine Reklaitis - to serve as advisors to the fledgling organization. With the help of these advisors, a constitution was drafted, finalized and submitted to the University for approval. Finally, after more than four months of dedicated work, planning and a lot of hoping, March 26, 1997 found Devonshire House an officially recognized student organization.
Now an institution on paper, Devonshire House faced the task of finding itself a house. They needed a Purdue owned house, in livable or restorable condition that could house the sixteen members that the House would eventually have. To further these goals, the officers turned to the Purdue Research Association - an on campus organization responsible for locating and acquiring housing for groups such as Devonshire House. Thankfully, after a brief search, the Association had found a house that had livable space for sixteen girls. Located at 1025 6th Street, the house was perfect. Or almost perfect.
While the building was Purdue owned and had been lived in, it had been unoccupied for a number of years and was in need of renovation. The house needed to be brought back up to code, the floors redone, piping checked, phones reconnected, and a myriad of minor repairs. Aside from the repairs, the house was empty and needed to be completely furnished. Thankfully, the Purdue Research Association helped pay for some of the renovations and repairs, but the bulk on the financial responsibility remained on the shoulders of Devonshire House itself.
So from the summer of 1997 through the summer of 1998, the Devonshire House members wrote to companies, held fund raisers, spoke with the Purdue Research Association, visited other co-ops, sanded and polished. Finally thanks to the generous donations of several corporations, the donations of families and alumni, the help of the Purdue Research Association and the Co-Operative Housing Association, and the hard work of all the Devonshire girls, Devonshire House housed itís first new members on Sunday, August the 23rd.