The University of Idaho”s housing isn”t just about providing students with a place to live. It”s also about helping students make connections that will benefit them socially and academically – something Corey Ray said he believes is achieved through interest-based living groups.
The associate director of housing and residence life said university housing has always provided living groups based off of different themes.
“In the past we had a lot of interests, we had a floor for if you were interested in outdoor activities, we had a 24-hour quiet floor, things like that,” Ray said.
While interest-based living groups have been common in the past, Ray said different groups come and go based on their popularity with students.
“Other interests come and go. We don”t see a need for the 24-hour quiet floor anymore – we don”t get a lot of requests for it,” Ray said. “In the past, you had your stereo and that would be too loud but I think nowadays, everybody just plugs in.”
Currently, Ray said consistent communities include the halls for engineering students and the college of natural resources. There is also a scholars building in the Learning Living Community (LLC) as well as an honors floor in the Theophilus Tower.
Some new additions include a floor for first-year women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields (STEM).
“We have the WISE program – Women in Idaho in STEM,” Ray said. “It”s fairly new, it”s only in its second year. The reason why is we have an interest at our university to support our female students who are in science and engineering.”
Tommy Burke, president of the Resident Housing Association, said there are also interest-based living groups such as the social justice floor for students who are passionate about social issues, and Mosaic, a living group for international students and those looking for a more multicultural experience.
Burke said academic groups such as the scholars and engineering living groups have been particularly successful. However, he said he”s also heard good things about other interest-based floors and halls as well.
“I don”t know if there are any that are outstanding,” Burke said. “But they all do have a good number of people who live in them and get something out them.”
These living groups can develop in a number of different ways. Ray said sometimes faculty members and students approach housing about adding new interest-based halls.
“What really drives these groups is interest,” Ray said. “If no one is signing up for those communities it tells us, “OK, this is the third year in a row no one is signing up for this, we need to rethink this community.””
Ray said he believes the interest-based living groups have been more successful because of the duel benefit or providing academic and social connections.
“If I”m an engineer in the College of Engineering hall, it”s nice to be in the same community,” Ray said. “Those students tend to do academically better than other engineers because your neighbor”s studying what you”re studying – it”s about finding those social connections.”
Although the popularity of interest-based living groups fluctuates throughout the years, Burke said he believes they can provide a valuable experience for students. He said ultimately, when it comes to choosing an interest-based living group or not, it”s all about personal preference.
“Everyone has different needs. Some people want the smaller community, the integration they have in fraternities and sororities,” Burke said. “Some people want to be more free bird and do whatever so they live in residence halls and off-campus. Within our halls, having these different specialties, they”re common interest things that get kids closer together.”