The overhaul of on-campus residents resulted in the first-ever iCommunity, located in Poly Canyon Village.
To compensate for Cal Poly’s largest-ever incoming freshman class, some first-years are being housed for the first time in Poly Canyon Village, which is typically reserved for sophomore and transfer students. This new residence option, called iCommunity, houses 472 students. iCommunity is the entire Gypsum building, which has 88 apartments. The other eight Poly Canyon Village buildings do not house freshmen.
With 4,768 freshmen living on campus, a 28 percent increase from last year, the university turned to Gypsum as a “necessary option,” said Tina Muller, a learning community coordinator.
“Past statistics and studies that the university has done, and that have been done nationally, show that folks who live in University Housing and on-campus housing do better in terms of transitioning to the institution and academically,” Muller said. “So the university really wanted to offer as many spots as possible on campus to students.”
Cal Poly faced a similar strain in 2011, when an incoming freshman class of 4,316 — the largest at that time — flooded University Housing. To deal with inadequate space then, University Housing added more triple rooms and also modified study lounges into living spaces, which at least six students shared.
Though there are still triple rooms this year, study rooms are no longer being modified into living spaces because of iCommunity.
With 7,132 students living on campus this year, University Housing is completely filled, according to June Sergeant, associate director of University Housing.
Still, no freshmen were denied on-campus housing, according to Muller.
And approximately 50 percent of freshmen received their first choice of halls, Sergeant said.
Industrial engineering freshman Owais Sarfaraz was placed in iCommunity, but it wasn’t his first choice.
“After fate played its hand, I was sent here, and I love it,” Sarfaraz said. “First off, the community here is awesome. Beyond that, we have two bathrooms per apartment, a small (recreation) center just for here, a heated pool, and the food here, you can get all the stuff you need within a two minute walk and you have a kitchen.”
Still, he said there are drawbacks.
“The downside to it is that it’s far from campus,” Sarfaraz said. “But at least every day is leg day over here. Also, the negative reaction you get from people when you say you live in the PCV apartments puts a damper on things.”
But Sarfaraz, who shares his room with two others and his apartment with seven, wouldn’t change his living situation.
“Honestly, it’s great,” he said, “We have eight roommates, and we all look out for each other. It’s like a small brotherhood. It’s not really living alone like a lot of people think. With 100 percent honesty, I can say I feel like I would not have been this happy in a dorm.”
Sarfaraz, an industrial engineering freshman, is part of the majority in iCommunity. iCommunity is almost 65 percent engineering majors, with 305 students.
Accordingly, programming for iCommunity is focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. iCommunity’s monthly speaker sessions will feature the HomeSlice team — a group of Cal Poly students who created an app — and the Career Center, among other guests. iCommunity residents will be encouraged to fill out a StrengthsQuest test, and there will be a quarterly “Shark Tank”-themed program. For this program, each “pod” – a group of students in iCommunity, similar to a wing or tower in other residence halls – will collaborate on and present a project. Industry representatives and pod members will vote on winners.
While students seem excited about the innovation-centric programming, students’ main concern was originally dining, Muller said.
“Now, with Tacos To-Go added in and Einstein’s added to the meal plan option, Subway being so close to us and Starbucks right over there in Campus Market, people have seemed a lot more excited,” she said.
Each iCommunity apartment has its own kitchen too, similar to Cerro Vista Apartments.
Also like Cerro Vista, iCommunity has community advisers instead of resident advisers.
iCommunity advisers will go on rounds, do bi-weekly apartment visits and perform other duties similar to Poly Canyon Village community advisers.
iCommunity advisers are going to put extra effort into getting to know their first-year residents and having “intentional conversations,” Muller said. But, contrary to rumor, there will be not additional anti-drinking measures in iCommunity.
Along with five community advisers, iCommunity also has four programming assistants, Hallie Bereny, one of the four, said.
Programming assistant is a new position, which only iCommunity has. Each community adviser is paired with a programming assistant, and they work together to bring in social, fun programs to enhance the hands-on, student-focused iCommunity experience.
The first iCommunity social program will be a courtyard dance this Saturday, sociology junior Bereny said.
Other upcoming social programs will include activities such as writing a letter to their future selves and making stress balls near finals time.
“Everyone’s really excited for iCommunity because they’re the first ones going through it, and they’re trying to embrace it and make it their own,” Bereny said.
As of now, there have been no formal complaints and no requests to transfer out of iCommunity, according to Muller.