As the new school year starts up, some UC Davis students are foregoing traditional dorm or apartment living in favor of an alternative style.
The Cal Aggie Christian Association opened a multi-faith living community behind the Christian Association House on Russell Drive this month and held its opening ceremony on Wednesday night. The community currently houses 37 undergraduate and graduate students from a diverse array of religious and cultural backgrounds.
“[The multi-faith community] was started as a community concerned with peace and justice,” said Reverend Kristin Stoneking, director of the community. “There are not enough places for students of different faiths to come together and talk about it. This is a chance for students to better understand each other.“
The community was first envisioned in 2000, but took several years to get off the ground due to resistance from the neighborhood, Stoneking said.
“The idea was put in front of city council in 2004 at which time it faced a lot of opposition from neighbors who didn’t want the new community in their neighborhood,” she said. “It was just something that they didn’t want to live near and at one point we even had to face a lawsuit.“
Despite a few barriers along the way, the house finished construction on the community housing this summer and students began to move in earlier this month.
Many of the students were first drawn to the community as a chance to reach out and meet new people, said Sarah Koplowicz, a senior religious studies major and resident of the community.
“When I heard about the multi-faith living community, I saw it as a chance to interact with many different types of students,” Koplowicz said. “Religion seems to be a very taboo subject in everyday conversation, but it is the opposite here. Here we make it a point to inject religion into our conversations.“
Five different faiths are currently represented at the community, Stoneking said.
“We have students from the Christian and Jewish faiths as well as Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist,” she said. “However, there are also students here who were not raised in a specific religion and are here to ask questions and learn more about different beliefs.“
Many of the residents agree that so far, the experience has been very positive.
“Everyone is exceptionally normal in terms of being regular students and we all really get along,” Koplowicz said.
“If you come here, you have to want to get to know people and expand your horizons,” said Aaron Sherman, a second year computer engineering major. “Everyone in the house is a student.… It is up to us to make this work in the way it was envisioned.“
Stoneking said in addition to daily activities together as a group, the multi-faith living community is also conducting Wednesday dinners every week that are open to the public.
“This is a brand new community,” she said. “But so far it has been a success and we are really excited about the upcoming year.“
ERICA LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.