Michigan’s Theme Communities allow you to make your first-year living experience unique to your interests by joining a community of people who share a common interest or lifestyle. Theme Communities have a designated space within one of the amazing Michigan dorms, and span Central Campus, Hill Neighborhood, and North Campus ( The 2019-2020 SubFree cohort is pictured above!)
By applying to and joining a Theme Community, you will be offered even more opportunities to connect with the people living around you and have extra support from campus partners and leadership teams who work specifically to support Theme Communities.
This year, I am the Resident Assistant (RA) for the SubFree Theme Community. We are located on the fifth floor of Bursley Hall, the largest dorm on North Campus and the only one on North Campus with a dining hall. Here’s a little bit about this U-M Theme Community, and Theme Communities in general, in FAQ format.
Q: What is SubFree?
A: Short for “substance free,” SubFree is the Theme Community at U-M dedicated to students who want to live a substance-free (alcohol or drugs) lifestyle. The SubFree community is a great place to make friends without the pressure of drinking or partying.
Q: What’s great about living in a Theme Community?
A: As an RA, I think that one of the best parts about living in a Theme Community is how much additional support there is for residents. There are dedicated professional staff within the Housing office who work to support Themes, as well as campus partners that are focused on organizing events and opportunities exclusive to Theme members. Additionally, when you live in a Theme, you have the opportunity to move in a couple of days earlier than your peers so you can settle in faster and have more time to make friends within your community.
Specific to the SubFree Theme, I think it’s great that students who choose to live substance-free can do so with friends and an RA who support each other’s choices. It can make moving to college a lot easier when you know you’re moving into a community of people who share a lifestyle choice with you.
But don’t just take it from me. Here’s what some SubFree Theme Community residents had to say about their experience:
I would love to tell everyone that if you don't want substances in your life or just want to try out a sober life and make great friends, SubFree is the best theme community.
My favorite thing about being in the SubFree Theme Community is having people to hang out with on a Friday or Saturday night when everyone else is going out. We’ve had a lot of fun nights watching Netflix, eating Oreos, and playing board games. So if you’re a first-year looking for a group of friends that will be with you for the rest of college, this is definitely the place for you!
Q: What other Theme Communities does Michigan have?
A: There are so many different Themes. Here’s a couple of highlights, and check out the full list here.
LiveFit - Also in Bursley Hall, LiveFit is for those who are dedicated to health and wellness in all of its different forms.
Living Business - In East Quad on Central Campus, the Living Business Theme offers those in the Ross School of Business a chance to be further engaged in efforts to “build a better world through business.”
1st Gen - Located in Couzens Hall on the Hill, the 1st Gen community offers additional support for those who are the first in their family to attend college.
Q: How do I join a Theme Community?
A: First, check out all of the different Theme Communities that Housing offers. Then, indicate on your general housing application that you would like to live in a Theme Community. You’ll be asked to submit a couple of responses that helps Housing better understand your interest in the specific community. But don’t stress. The questions are simply for the purpose of helping Housing understand more about who you are and add additional context to the application.
As you fill out your housing application, consider applying to a Theme Community, and enjoy all of the extra benefits it offers while making friends for a lifetime!