Graduate students share their experiences of living on the Range

The Range provides housing for graduate students fostering academic growth and camaraderie

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Second-year Architecture masters student Ucha Abbah poses in front of her room on the Range. 

Dorothy Wang | Cavalier Daily

When Thomas Jefferson founded the University, he envisioned an academic village where students, professors and the like could interact with each other outside of a classroom. Although the University has received many renovations and modifications throughout the years, this “Jeffersonian” ideal still exists thanks to the Lawn, the Range and the Pavilions.

The Range consists of the 52 outward facing rooms on the Lawn. It houses graduate students from the University such those at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the Mcintire School of Commerce, the School of Architecture and the University’s School of Medicine. The diversity of residents and cross-over of graduate programs ultimately spawns many thoughtful academic conversations that would unlikely occur elsewhere.

“Oftentimes when you’re in graduate school you spend a lot of time with the people in your specific programs,” said John Costello, second-year Medical student and chair of the Range Selection Committee. “So it’s really unique to have the opportunity to live next to someone studying something completely different and being able to share with them why you’re studying what you are.”

The Range residents also have a formal time to share topics that they are passionate about during their forums that take place on Sundays.

“I learned about anatomy and vitamins and body, because John who's the president, is a medical student, so he'll explain your entire body to you in like 15 minutes,” said Ucha Abbah, a second-year Architecture masters student and Range resident. “There's another guy, who just gets up and explains defense strategy and our relationship with Russia in one afternoon.”

The richness of the conversations that takes place on the Range is just one of the characteristics that define it. 

Second-year Batten student Jack DiMatteo, a former Range resident, noted the sense of community that forms on the Range. 

His move-in weekend as a first-year graduate student coincided with the torchlit white supremacist march on Aug. 11, 2017. The group marched through Grounds to the Thomas Jefferson statue north of the Rotunda, not too far from his room on the Range. DiMatteo was shocked by the events, but was immediately comforted by his newfound Range community.

“It was actually a couple neighbors who I'd met on the Range who were the ones checking in, making sure that I had a place to go, that I was safe,” DiMatteo said. “So in the midst of this really dark and horrible chapter in Charlottesville history, it was the Range community that was really essential for me feeling like I belonged here.” 

Abbah also appreciates the open-mindedness of the Range residents to engage in conversation with others. 

“Even as an introvert, I still enjoy the environment,” Abbah said. “It's not necessarily something that is hyper-social in the sense that you feel the need to always talk to someone ... but I think it is understood that it's okay for you to go to up to somebody's door and say, ‘Hi, my name is so and so and I live 10 doors down from you’ — that’s not weird.” 

Although the Lawn and Range rooms are notoriously known for having neither air conditioning nor personal bathrooms, residents say the honor to live in these rooms outweighs all cons. 

“You know our bathrooms are at each end of the Range, so you have to walk outside in your robe to go to the bathroom,” DiMatteo said. “Which, you know, if it's snowing let's say in the winter, it can be less than ideal. But I always say, these are really minor inconveniences because overall, it's a really remarkable privilege.”

Each Range room has a list on a cabinet door inside that goes through all of its residents dating back to the 19th century. 

“Getting to see where you fit in this really long history of people who have lived in these rooms and gone out to do impressive things is pretty unique,” DiMatteo said.

While DiMatteo saw living on the Range as an opportunity to immerse himself in the University’s history and interact with other students, Abbah initially saw the Range simply as affordable on-Grounds housing. However, her view quickly changed once she arrived. 

“I've had several people come up to me when I’m just coming out of my room ... alumni or people just touring and say ‘Oh my god, it's so cool that you live here. Isn't it so cool that you live here?’”Abbah said. “And like, I just needed a place to stay — I had no idea.”

Historically the Range has kept to itself in regards to community outreach. Costello, however, as chair of the selection committee hopes to do a lot more programming in order to make the Range more community oriented. 

“The biggest thing is starting to work with the Lawn to host events and make the most of the incredible opportunity we’ve been given,” Costello said. 

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