- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) — Beer and cigarettes are out, and early morning jogging and talks on women’s issues are in at Virginia Wesleyan College’s newly designated Wellness Hall.

The college is taking the 56-student dormitory beyond “substance-free,” by grouping students interested in improving their physical, emotional, spiritual and social health.

The dorm, which opened for the fall semester, offers workouts with trainers and volunteer opportunities. Workers are also installing a “green roof” of vegetation to reduce energy costs and cut down on harmful runoff.

“They just wanted a more peaceful environment to live in, an environment where they didn’t have to worry about people coming home drunk at night,” said Carolyn King, the college’s director of student life.

The dorms are part of a national trend of clustering students with similar interests, said Kevin Kruger of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

More colleges are recognizing that education goes on outside classrooms and that dormitories are an important part of that experience, said Michael Berger of Brailsford & Dunlavey, a D.C. consulting firm specializing in campus housing.

A new dorm for upperclassmen involved in student organizations opened this month at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. At the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg administrators opened “Mosaic House” to foster multicultural dialogue.

And at Virginia Tech, the Wellness Environment for Living and Learning is in its 10th year and has about 200 students.

It is one of 19 affinity housing options at the Blacksburg campus. Other learning communities at Virginia Tech are based on students studying engineering or their involvement in leadership.

Students at Virginia Wesleyan had been asking for a healthy-living dorm for years, but this was the first year in which a significant number made the request, said Dean David Buckingham.

Wellness Hall has 17 students on its waiting list.

Mimi Mitchell, a freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y., said she appreciates the calmness of the dorm and thinks the easy access to exercise will push her toward self-improvement.

Luke Usher, a freshman cross-country runner, thought the dorm would fit his lifestyle.

“I’ve heard some things go on in the regular freshman hall,” said Mr. Usher, from Berkeley Springs, W.Va. “I thought it would be better, to keep me out of trouble.”

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