History of International House Davis

Shunta Yamamoto

Mr. Shunta Yamamoto (from a Davis Enterprise article, probably dated 1992)

International students/visitors have been coming to Davis to study since the University was first established in 1909.  As early as the 1950s and ’60s, when the number of international students was increasing dramatically, people began to dream of having an International Center to help meet the needs of these students.  In the mid-’60s when Emil Mrak was chancellor, a small building was designated for use by international students, but it lasted only a few years because of lack of space on campus.

Then, in the late 1970s, Mr. and Mrs. Shunta Yamamoto of Tokyo came to Davis with the idea of starting an International House.  Mr. Yamamoto’s father had helped establish the Tokyo I-House.  Community people worked with University representatives and, in February 1981, International House Davis was formally established as an independent community non-profit corporation.  Starting in 1982 (until 1988), a half-time paid program director coordinated all activities.

Opening Ceremony

Davis Mayor Bill Kopper, left, is assisted by Shunta Yamamoto, center, and Tom Dutton at the ribbon cutting ceremony Sunday to open Davis’ International House, as some of those attending Sunday’s open house look on. Photo by Mat Williams/Davis Enterprise

In 1983, the ideally-located property at 10 College Park was aquired through a generous gift from the Yamamotos.  The facility, known as “I-House,” opened in March 1984 as a program center serving both the community and UC Davis. The organization is supported by memberships, donations, fundraisers, and grants and is governed by a board of 15-20 volunteers.

From 1989, the City of Davis granted I-House funds to be its official host for international visitors to the city.  In 1990, I-House received an ongoing grant from UC Davis for work I-House does with international students and scholars.  These funds enabled I-House to hire the first full-time director and office manager.  The I-House staff now consists of an Executive Director, Operations Manager, Program & Volunteer Coordinator, and part time Facilities Assistants.

In 2009, during the financial crisis, the City of Davis was no longer able to continue the grants to I-House.  However, in 2016 the City Council approved funding for International House Davis to host the Sister Cities program.

I-House has experienced several major renovations.  The first, in 1989, enabled I-House to add a greatly-improved kitchen, two new patios and landscaping.  A second project in 1992 was the creation of the Hagan Room, built almost entirely by volunteers.  In 1996-1997, after an intense fundraising effort an addition to the original facility created two new large meeting rooms, the Community Room and the Activities Room.  These rooms had a tremendous effect on I-House’s ability to provide programs.  In 2015 and 2016, I-House began a series of renovations to update the kitchen, Ryerson patio, and the Activities room. In 2017, the exterior of the building was repaired and painted.

Furthermore, in 1997, I-House was able to purchase the adjoining property.  This allowed I-House to double the size of its parking log, with plans to someday redevelop the property into additional programming space.

Throughout its history, volunteers have played an indispensable role in providing programs at I-House.  The many volunteers host international families, teach languages, welcome visitors, plan and carry out programs, raise funds, do maintenance, and much more.

Over time, the international activities for the region have become centered at the I-House. In 2015-2016, the I-House Board of Directors embarked on a strategic plan to guide I-House for the next several years as we continue to grow to benefit both the regional community, Davis residents, and UC Davis students.

Updated: 4/12/17