A Big Idea: Campus of Life Opens in San Diego

March 28, 2018


pic14A new and exciting vision is developing in San Diego. Campus of Life, an intentional community of learners that engages the whole person, is bringing dynamic resources to our area. Dr. Ilana De Laney, the dean, and Craig Saloner, Campus of Life’s board member, describe this innovative program as a place where people of all ages and backgrounds live, learn and grow together. “The whole idea was to create a new paradigm in living,” Saloner told the San Diego Jewish Journal from the fourth-floor balcony of one of the luxury residences in the new development. “This idea of creating community in the middle of beautiful San Diego, which has been nearly a decade in the making, (and a brainchild of Saloner and Rabbi Josef Fradkin of Chabad Hebrew Academy) is to build a community centered around education and learning. It would differ from the college lifestyle in that the students are intergenerational and classes would be scheduled around work, family needs and other obligations that sometimes make getting an education more difficult.”

“A community is always built around something, a religious community or a sporting community, and we thought how amazing to build a community around learning and education,” Saloner continued. “As part of your residence here, you will have access to a broad range of classes on campus, where you live.”

The developers purchased the property from Chabad Hebrew Academy and, although the campus is not Jewish affiliated, plenty of Jewish classes should be offered.

“What we’re really looking for is a demographic that’s interested in learning and is interested in creating a lifestyle around learning,” Saloner said. “The Jewish community is a huge demographic for us and our proximity to [a nationally acclaimed Jewish Day School & Early Childhood center], so there are going to be Jewish Courses offered … we feel like the Jewish demographic is perfect because they love learning.” Saloner said they are calling it the Campus of Life because it is a place where you live, learn and grow. The curriculum has both traditional and experiential classes: everything from workshops on relationships, communication and spiritual studies, to yoga and clubs (i.e, book and running). “We aim to bridge high level academics through experiential learning, thereby creating a new stage in the evolution of lifelong learning,” said Ilana De Laney.

“Campus of Life is committed to creating a community of good where members take an active role in making the world a better place. We encourage our students not only to  learn but also to volunteer and to lead life at Maslow’s highest level of personal growth – self  actualization.” She said it is like a contemporary kibbutz with all of the amenities life has to offer.

The 84-unit one, two and three bedroom residences at Campus of Life start at around $2,100 a month for Campus of Life members. “You can come here and you can actually get real quality education,” Saloner said. Eighty-four units will be finished by phase one and when construction is finished there will be a total of 228 residences.

De Laney said she is excited they will be offering both indoor and outdoor classes, which includes hiking. “Learning about San Diego and the environment through hiking is amazing,” she said. “You don’t only sit and study about the environment, but also go out in nature and take advantage of everything this city offers us.”

In one of their art history classes students might have a couple of sessions in a classroom, “but then we’re going to meet in Balboa Park and go to the different museums and continue engaging with art in real life.”

“You’re not coming back to college,” Saloner said. “What you’re doing is coming back to interactive experiences.”

“In truth, it’s a little bit of an experiment because in all of the models that we’ve studied there’s definitely a lot of communities connected to universities,” but, he said, there are very few that are so multi-generational.”

“And we think it’s exciting and it will help for you to meet your neighbors. Because if I’m in the same cooking class as my neighbor and we meet – all of a sudden we’re sharing recipes and we’re creating community.”

Saloner lives in a nine-acre eco village in North County, and said he’s taken a lot of the concepts from the community, such as how to create intimate connection and shared experiences through collaborative learning. “We’re now doing that in an urban setting, which is really something unique.”

Campus of Life has gotten accolades from various San Diego institutions, including Alliant University, Seacrest Village Retirement Communities and Congregation Beth Israel who call the project “innovative,” “creative” and “holistic.” The campus is in the process of accreditation and will be able to offer course units. Saloner said the idea is to help people find their potential. “It’s almost like how do we light a spark in people?” he said. “If you want to climb Machu Picchu, let’s give you nutrition [and fitness programs that will help you achieve this goal], let’s teach you about the history of the Incas, let’s get you into breath work and mindfulness and meditation.” People not living on the campus will likely be allowed to take classes as well. While the project is still a work in progress, student residents will be able to move in by the beginning of April and classes will also be available.

“We think there’s a real need for it,” Saloner said. “As social me- dia becomes more and more prevalent, we become more and more isolated.”

Campus of Life strives to offer adult learners the opportunity to become acquainted with their fellow learners through experiential  opportunities, social activities and programs. The campus and its  surroundings are where people meet, find common interests and  establish lifelong friendships with fellow students, teachers and  mentors.   

For more information please visit www.campusoflife.com. 


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