20 Minutes with Pam Curtis on new student success program
Living Learning Communities at the University of Louisville are a new concept aimed at helping students succeed.
Starting this fall, students with common goals will live in the same residence halls and participate in the same courses or service projects.
Pam Curtis, director of the Office of Civic Engagement, Leadership and Service, helped create the program. UofL Today asked her to explain it and how it may help new students.
What is a Living Learning Community?
There are many different definitions for the concept of living learning communities all over the country. The LLCs at UofL provide common living environments, common course work and/or common learning opportunities outside the classroom, common academic support and advising experiences and common co-curricular experiences. Although the goal is for students to build relationships with other students, faculty and staff all over campus, LLCs provide focused attention on making this process easier by bringing these important student supporters to their place of residence via common experiences.
Not all communities may have an academic component, however. For example, the Leadership Quest LLC, which is out of the Office of Civic Engagement, Leadership and Service, does not. Whether curricular or co-curricular in nature, the program will continually help students make connections between their learning in the classroom and its application to their areas of interest outside the classroom.
How do LLCs work, in terms of both of the classroom and the residential experience?
Students sign up for their housing and select the LLC they would like to belong to. Then the student registers for the specified classes through her or his adviser. Once a student begins the semester, the program's goal is to create a core group of classmates that live on the same floor and are ready-made study partners, support and even friends - the all important connection or relationships will exist through the common focus provided by the LLC program.
Is this a brand new initiative? Has UofL had anything like this before?
Many years ago the university started a program of learning communities without the housing component. Not all, but some still exist in some form - especially in the honors program. The concept of an academically focused LLC has not existed before. However, the Leadership LLC completed its first year this past spring.
What new LLCs are being offered?
The new ones this fall are:
- First Year Experience at Unitas Tower
- Honors Pre-Health, Science and Engineering Community at Threlkeld
- Pre-Health Community at Miller Hall
- Pre-Dental Hygiene Community at Community Park
- Engineering Community at Wellness Hall
The great news is that the Honors LLC already has filled and has no vacancies. However, the other communities continue to have some limited space available. Students definitely need to apply before orientation is over, although there is no guarantee that space will be available that long. We are already planning for next year because students who want to return to housing in fall 2011 will begin the process of selecting their new residence hall in September. We would be eager for faculty to approach us to create their own community within a residence hall for the future.
What is the benefit to a student?
There are many benefits, including:
- a peer mentor to assist with the transition from high school to college
- academic advising will be offered in some communities
- opportunities to meet faculty and practitioners outside the classroom setting
- career workshops focused on turning coursework into a career
- academic programs to assist in becoming more successful as a student
- community service and leadership experiences
- social activities to assist in getting to know community members better
Is there any research on the connection between involvement in learning communities and student success?
There is quite a bit of evidence in the research about student retention that LLCs can play a positive role in students succeeding and persisting. Some of the benefits we hope to see in our students based on the research from other schools are:
- Development of personal relationships with other students in the classroom
- Increased grade point average
- Greater involvement on campus and in professional organizations
- Higher likelihood of graduating in four years
- Easier transition from high school to college
- Increased class attendance
How can students, faculty and staff get involved?
Students interested in participating must live on campus in one of the designated residence halls housing LLCs. They also must be registered for the common courses associated with each LLC. Students can apply for housing and get more information online.
If we call upon faculty and staff to help provide a unique and valuable learning experience for these students, we hope that they will be eager to interact with them and spend some time in the residence halls. They are rich learning environments; faculty and staff participation will only enhance an already meaningful experience for our students.
This program would not be able to happen this fall without the tireless efforts and enduring support of a university-wide committee. We thank the members, the housing staff and our supporters in administration for making this happen.