Living together with a new group of people in a college residence hall can be challenging not knowing anything about each other. These things include activities they’re passionate about, living habits, or what motivates them in life. In the fall of 2007, Nate Gordon, Keene State College’s current coordinator of First Year Residential Experience and Kent Drake-Deese, the director of Residential Life & Housing Services, collaborated to create the Living and Learning Communities (LLC) program, currently located in Pondside III.
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“Keene State offers living/learning communities in Pondside III, where groups of students with shared interests choose to live together and have specific time to focus on their passions,” the Keene State College admissions website stated. The current process for becoming a part of an LLC is to first propose a specific idea of what the name and interest of the suite is to residential life. Next, the residential director of Pondside III and director of residential life and housing services review and approve the proposals. Lastly, the chosen student representative of the community and advisor will choose the best applicants to be accepted. Once the LLC is approved, students apply, and are chosen, there are certain requirements of every living and learning community. These include putting on three educational programs in the residence hall for students to attend, and another form of community service. Sophomore Athena Arrindell, one of the eight students living in the GLBT Educators and Advocates suite, believes that these living and learning community programs are beneficial to students on the KSC campus.
Although a majority of the students who apply for a spot in these suites are somewhat knowledgeable about the focus of the LLC, some students that apply have never been exposed to the material before and are hoping to gain a better understanding. The misconception that a lot of students have is that you have to know information about the topic to join, or have friends living there already.
“I live in the GLBT suite and I don’t identify as any of those four sexual orientations,” Arrindell said. She hopes the LLCs will “broaden people’s perspectives about anything and everything.” In the upcoming academic year, all is about to change with the Living and Learning Communities program. Jana Jacobson, the assistant director for Residential Life and Housing Services, and Matt Salter, the residential director of East Halls, have collaborated to completely transform the dynamics of how LLCs are run. When drafting up the new communities, Jacobson and Salter needed to figure out how they were going to ensure that they are based on broader subjects and could include a greater number of student interests. Their main goal was to follow a new protocol, called “High Impact Practices,” stated on the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) website. While using this method and drawing in references from KSC’s own mission statement, Jacobson and Salter were able to successfully create five entirely new communities. Each of them has their own mission statements. The new Living and Learning Communities for fall of 2012 are: Equality and Social Justice; Mind, Body, and Character; Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship (E.T.L.S); Citizens and Service; and Living Green. All in all, even with the complete change of this program, the purpose of the building will essentially be the same.
“You can still live with your friends, but the likelihood you will interact with everyone else is greater.” Jacobson said. There will still be a steering committee, only sophomore, junior, and senior students are permitted to live in the building, and it will continue to be gender inclusive. Jacobson’s goal for the upcoming fall semester is to fill all of the spots in the LLCs and assure the KSC community that this new method of high impact practices will bring an even greater sense of community.
“Learning communities have been studied widely and show a broad range of positive outcomes. Nearly all relevant studies find that participation in a learning community has a positive impact on student persistence, with minimal or no impact on grades, behavioral outcomes such as peer and faculty interaction and student engagement, and attitudinal outcomes such as sense of belonging and perception of a positive campus climate.” Based on research done in 2008 by the AAC&U, having a strong sense of belonging in any social situation is one of the most thought-consuming processes every college student goes through. With Keene State College’s current LLC program, it brings together students with specific common interests. With the newly drafted LLC program, it will be able to keep those same ideals but be based on a broader spectrum and truly connect students with their passions.
Jason Abisch can be contacted at email@example.com