New housing option to promote community learning

Housing is currently gearing up preparations for a Living Learning Communities (LLC) initiative that will bring in its first group of residents in Fall 2009.

The LLCs will consist of students living together that have a similar interest in a specific topic that will be selected by a faculty member.

The faculty member will be in charge of creating programming related to the topic of their LLC and acting as a mentor to the students.

“Faculty will plan diverse programming for the students…. Opportunities to interact with faculty will range from informal weekly coffee hours to biweekly programmatic events that possibly include finding speakers or taking students on outings related to their subject,” said Dana Hartley, director of undergraduate studies and co-chair of LLC task force. “There really are no specific requirements for what programs will entail, only that both students and faculty stay involved and are actively planning programming for their LLC.”

This initiative was started in response to a study that was commissioned by Tech this past year on issues specifically relating to the sophomore experience. One of the major finds of the study was that many Tech students felt a disconnect between themselves and the faculty.

The task force conducting the study decided that students would benefit from a chance to interact with faculty on a purely non-academic level.

The LLCs were then proposed as a way to promote more informal interactions with faculty, as well as provide a way for students to be more engaged with learning subjects they might otherwise never explore in their normal course of study.

“Tech does a really good job of teaching students a certain field, but sometimes the world view it gives us is limited. These learning communities will give students a wider scope of knowledge they will need when they graduate,” said Jimmy Williams, second-year BME major and student representative on the task force.

The format of the LLCs’ programming will be based on the current structure of other, similar living communities, such as the International House. Activities will include weekly coffee hours with the professor and biweekly programs.

In addition, each LLC will have required retreats before the semester begins and celebratory dinner at the end of each semester, to further increase the interaction of the participants.

Logistics of the actual LLCs are still in the process of being worked out. The plan is for each LLC to have between 50 and 100 students and live in a location with good central meeting places.

“We’re not sure yet exactly where the LLCs will be located, but we do not think that all of them will be in one building… We want to offer them in both apartments and more traditional housing, in order to appeal to a wider range of students,” said Dan Morrison, director of residential life in Housing and co-chair of the LLC task force.

The actual topics of the learning communities are still to be determined. Faculty are currently submitting proposals for LLC topics and programming.

In November, a review board will select the best proposals put forth by the faculty for LLCs and let students know what topics are offered. The students will also be informed of who the faculty sponsors will be for each topic of interest. At that time, students can begin to think about applying for Fall 2009.

In the interim, the LLC task force is encouraging students to recommend any professors they hope will participate in the program.

“While we are developing the idea of these living learning communities, we really want to get student input, so that we can be sure what we are doing will really achieve what we hope to achieve in improving upperclassman experience,” Hartley said.