FARMINGTON – Two years ago Jacky Murphy decided to live in a new type of residence hall at University of Maine at Farmington.

She lived in a dorm for education majors, participating in a plan to create learning communities where students with shared interests can live, work and grow together throughout college.

It marked a new direction in on-campus housing, one that UMF is looking to expand this year by using a $2,500 educational minigrant.

The initial experiment, at least for Murphy, didn’t extend beyond the freshman year, however. And although the effort placed like-minded students together, it seemed to come up short in reaching the desired benefits of a collaborative learning environment.

“I wouldn’t have known it was themed, unless it was named for education,” said Murphy, 20, and now a junior who is entering her second year living off campus.

Officials at UMF this year are using the grant, recently awarded by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, to turn this kind of information from students into a way to improve the plan by involving courses, campus speakers and activities.

“The tendency is to say, here is what you’re doing,” said Rob Lively, associate provost and dean of academic services. But the extra money, he added, is assisting educators to continue to ask students, instead, “What are you interested in?”

Courses have been linked to allow crossover between academic disciplines based on the themes. A freshman in an early U.S. history course, as part of the plan, would link to a seminar that discusses the impact of past events on the future.

Guest speakers, forums and activities will also, in part, be based on direction from the learning communities. More faculty advisers have also begun showing interest in working with the themed floors.

Students this fall were able to choose from an increasing number of themed floors in residence halls. Those interested in literature, for example, live on a floor named the writers’ nook, while visual and performing arts students can be found on the artists’ affinity floor.

Most of the themes, other than education, do not deal with an academic major. They give students, Lively said, a chance to pursue something that extends “over and above” classroom interests.

About 400 of the 1,100 students on campus now live in some form of themed floor, said Brian Ufford, interim director of student life.

The addition of link courses, themed activities and faculty partnerships will be evaluated at the end of the year.

The amount of the grant is not large, but Lively feels it is more than enough to grow the program.

New forms of resident advisers, now known as community advisers, are a change that Ufford touts as a success sparked by the themed floors initiative.

The community advisers’ training now involves gaining skills that help them get involved in student activities and inspire engagement, he said. This is a change from traditional training that deals 90 percent with campus policy and crisis intervention.

“We were already kind of heading in the right direction with this,” Lively said.