Home on the Range

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“View of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville & Monticello, taken from Lewis Mountain” lithograph by C. Bohn, 1856. East and West Range pictured at either side of the Academical Village.

Since its first cornerstone was laid in 1819, the Academical Village has been the literal and figurative heart of the University of Virginia. 

Designed to foster cross-disciplinary exchange, Thomas Jefferson's design united students and professors in a common pursuit of knowledge.  His vision of community survives to this day—just as the rooms on the Lawn are awarded to undergraduate students and the Pavilions are reserved for professors and deans, the buildings of the East and West Ranges are home to 52 of the University's most accomplished graduate students.

This year, 12 of those students are Batten MPPs. 

In an era when graduate education often means siloed specialization, the Range stands apart, bringing together students from diverse academic fields to live, interact, and learn from each other. This unique student community embodies Jefferson's aspiration of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration.

The Range rooms themselves are steeped in history, with their Federal-style architecture dating back to the 1820s. The simple yet elegant brick facades and columned porticos evoke a timeless sense of academic heritage, inviting students to step into a space where history and learning intertwine seamlessly. Inside, the rooms are rich in character, with working fireplaces, high ceilings, wood floors, and large windows. Over the centuries, countless students and faculty have called these rooms home, leaving their marks to become part of the University's storied past.

For Kayvon Samadani, a second-year accelerated MPP student, living on the Range has had a tremendously positive impact on his graduate school experience. "I have made so many friends through this community and met students who I otherwise would never have encountered in grad school," he said. "I have been able to share and hear ideas with people across disciplines and learned a tremendous amount from their perspective."

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Kayvon Samadani on his rocking chair outside his West Range room.

Samadani's favorite Range memory illustrates the tight-knit community that exists there. "I texted in my block group chat, asking if anyone wanted to sit on our rocking chairs, have a drink for a 'whine Wednesday' and just talk about whatever we wanted to," he recalled. "To my surprise, almost the entire block came, and we sat together laughing about what each other had to say, and stayed up for hours getting to know each other and enjoy each other's company."

The communal outdoor spaces on the Range, including rocking chairs on the porches and the grassy courtyards between the buildings, provide ample opportunities for residents to gather. These spaces come alive during the warmer months, with impromptu picnics, study sessions, and sports. 

Marina George, a second-year postgraduate MPP student, was drawn to the Range for similar reasons to Samadani. "I see the Range as another space that brings graduate students together to share our thoughts and ideas, especially since we all are coming from different disciplines and backgrounds," she said. "The Range seemed to be not only a great place to live but also an amazing place to connect with other graduate students around the University that I probably would not have met otherwise."

For George, the sense of community on the Range has been invaluable. "I love the people that I have met on the Range, as they have quickly become a community that I can look to for guidance and support – and perspectives that I had not considered previously.”

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Marina George (left) joins fellow Batten Ranger Asuka Bunthoambunlay for a chat outside her room.

Jack Entsminger, a first-year postgraduate MPP student, was drawn to the Range by the opportunity to live in a historic place right in the heart of the University's Grounds. "It is not often that an opportunity arises to live in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I was excited to live in such a beautiful and iconic place."

Entsminger has found the Range to be a valuable community as he adjusted to life at a larger university. “As someone who went to a smaller undergraduate institution of about 2,000 students, the built-in community of the Range helped me feel at home in a potentially overwhelming environment."

Living on the Range also means being a part of the University's rich history—its buildings serve as a tangible connection to the past. "At the end of the fall semester, it snowed for a number of days," recalled Samadani. "I remember getting up in the morning to go shower, donning my robe, opening the door, and seeing the snow falling. I remember sighing audibly and thinking of an expletive in my head. But, as I braved the cold snow, I couldn't help but think of all the other Range residents of the past who had woken up in the morning to an icy blast of snow and still made their way to the shower. This thought gave me an intense feeling of connectedness to the University, its past, its present, and Rangers of the future, who will almost certainly have the same morning experience I did."

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Six Batten Rangers (left to right): Marina George, Jack Entsminger, Ryan T. Strand, Thomas Driscoll, Freya Birkas-Dent, and Asuka Bunthoambunlay.

For prospective or first-year Batten MPP students considering living on the Range, all three students had the same advice: go for it. "If you are ready to buy into all the quirky aspects of living in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the community it creates, you will get so much out of the experience," said Samadani.

"I would encourage our first-year students to check it out," said George. "There is a lot of history here, as well as community – and I am glad to be a part of it."

Entsminger agreed. "Living on the Range is a once in a lifetime opportunity, being extremely close to Batten and to the Corner creates one of the most convenient living situations in Charlottesville. Leave your reservations of the Range at the door, because you'll realize quickly that any potential issues were likely exaggerated.”

The Range remains a cherished piece of UVA's heritage. For the Batten MPP students who call it home, it offers an unparalleled opportunity to engage with a diverse community of scholars and forge lasting friendships. Living on the Range is more than just a unique housing experience; it's a chance to immerse oneself in the very heart of the Academical Village and to carry forward the legacy of intellectual curiosity and collaboration that has defined UVA since its founding.

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Cherry blossoms in full bloom by East Range.

Applications to the Range consist of several essay questions and are open from April 1st through 8th. You can learn more about life on the Range and access the application through the UVA Housing website.

Garrett Hall at Sunset

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