For Immediate Release — Monday, April 24, 2006


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

Two SUNY Geneseo students to display their unique abode on campus

GENESEO, N.Y. — College student housing is not known for being the most upscale living, but two State University of New York at Geneseo students decided to give up even the basic comforts of residence halls and local apartments.

Kim Keil, a senior art studio major from Liverpool, N.Y., and Katie Russell, a senior sociology major from Palmyra, N.Y., have spent the past year living in a yurt about a mile from the Geneseo campus. The pair plans to move the yurt onto campus for display May 6 through May 13.

Keil and Russell thought of the idea together last year. "We wanted to show people that there's another way of living," said Keil.

They began looking on the Internet and in books for plans and ideas. While pre-made yurts are available for sale, Keil and Russell opted to build one from scratch out of recycled materials. They used cinder blocks from the old Geneseo Wal-Mart; collected, sawed, drilled and coated sticks with linseed oil to use as posts; and gathered road kill to skin and tan. Keil also wrote letters to farmers across New York state asking them to donate wool. She received about 400 pounds. "We didn't want anything bought," said Keil.

Last June, they moved onto the off-campus site in tents, planning to build the structure in six weeks. It took five months. "Everyone said we'd freeze to death," said Keil. But the walls are insulated with wool and old rugs while the floor is piled with skins, blankets and sleeping bags. It's not central heating, but it was more than enough to survive the Northeastern winter. And it's less expensive and much more energy efficient.

The pair will earn college credit for their project as a directed study. Russell is working with Associate Professor of Sociology Kurt Cylke. Her directed study involves reading a few books and writing an article about her experience for Wilderness Way, a magazine that promotes primitive living skills. Keil is working with Assistant Professor of Art Dan DeZarn. The yurt is her senior sculpture project—which is why they are moving it to campus for display.

People in the community have had a mixed reaction to their lifestyle. "It's like we're a novelty—we're like the yurt girls," said Keil.

After graduation, the two seniors plan to relocate the structure to a piece of property near Keuka Lake. They want to make a few modifications, replacing the woodstove with a hearth and drilling a well on the property. According to Keil, living so close to campus was a good steppingstone before moving to the more rural location in Central New York. "It was like doing it in a safe zone—I have the whole sculpture studio to fix it."

Although constructing the yurt took longer than they had planned and it may seem like a difficult way to live, Russell insists it isn't all hard work. "I love sitting in front of the campfire and talking all night."

For more information, the media may contact Kim Keil at (585) 260-1386 or