By Helena Schmidt
A little known option for students living on campus is the newly formed CONCEPTual Living Program. It offers themed housing communities that bring students together with similar academic or recreational interests.
“I chose to live in ILC (the International Living Center) the second semester of my sophomore year,” said Nti Aning a senior and president of ILC, “I couldn’t imagine where I’d be now if I hadn’t joined.”
The ILC is just one of the six communities currently active in the CONCEPTual Living Program. It is home to several students of diverse cultural backgrounds, as well as those that are interested in different cultures.
“Anyone of any race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political belief, you name it, can be apart of the community and that is what we feel makes it so strong,” Aning said.
After having been in the ILC for almost two years Aning said that he has really enjoyed it.
“You really build strong family with people who in other situations you would likely never meet,” he said.
Since she has been in the program she has had a more comfortable stay at UMW.
“I have always felt most comfortable around diverse groups of people,” he said. “I can honestly say that I have friends from almost every single background.”
Katrina Shilling, a junior living in the Scholar’s Community, is another student that has found their niche in the CONCEPTual living program.
“You are surrounded by students who want to do better than their best in school,” she said.
The Scholar’s Community is a special community formed by students who are striving to do well in their academics, as well as spreading the skills they have gained through the campus.
This community is special to Shilling and all who are in it because of the similar interests and goals that each have to achieve their highest potential and put their academics above all else.
“The goal of the community is to live together and help each other academically and also to learn new things from each other,” Shilling said. “I really like this community because each member brings something to the table that is different from the rest of us.”
The CONCEPTual Living Program is actually a newer addition to the UMW campus, starting in 2006 with its first full academic year 2007-08.
It was originally called the Special Interest Program, but then, was not very popular.
Starting in 2006 Christine Porter, director of residence life, and Christopher Medley, assistant director of residence life and coordinator of CONCEPTual Living, transitioned the old program into what it is now. The main difference between the two is that the students may form and manage their own themes for the communities.
There are currently six communities for upper-class students. They are Gender Neutral Housing (GNH), the ILC, Korean-Afghan Roommate Community (KARC), Modern Foreign Language (MFL), Physically Active Fitness Friends (PAFF), and the Scholar’s Community.
“The sense of community that the program offers adds value to the students’life on campus,” Porter said.
Currently there are around 65 students participating in the CONCEPTual Living Program. This number is expected to grow in the future, especially since it had only transitioned into the new version of the program in the past two years.
Every year the program has the opportunity to change based on the communities that are formed and the number of students that join them. “We expect that, in the future, it will spread more, especially since [the students] can choose their own theme,” said Porter.
So far, the CONCEPTual Living Program has been a success among those that are in, as well as beneficial to their campus lives. But, besides all other benefits that accompany the program, Medley said that, most importantly, the program is a “good learning experience.”