Living Learning Communities continue to grow on campus

By By Elizabeth Engasser, ASST. NEWS EDITOR
On April 25, 2013

Living Learning Communities (LLCs), or residential communities that focus on either an academic major or a special interest, have sprung up around campus over the past six years and may continue to grow, Jennifer Perkins, program director for LLCs said.

Housing and Residential Education will add two new living learning communities (LLCs) to its list of options available to students this fall: an Education LLC and a Global Citizenship LLC.

Students who apply for an LLC are housed with other students in the program, where they connect with others in their major and participate in activities specifically designed for the program.

Perkins said nationally, students who participate in LLCs tend to be more satisfied with their university experience.

“I think part of that is having a strong sense of community and really getting acclimated to those in the residential community, and also with their academic college and faculty who are invested in those programs,” Perkins said.

The Education LLC will target pre-education majors, and will partner with the College of Education to help students as they prepare to apply for the college through meeting faculty and education professionals.

The LLC will consist of 30 students and will be located in Beta hall.

The Global Citizenship LLC will partner with the Global Citizenship program, which is a program that provides foundations of knowledge and learning (FKL) core curriculum courses designed with a global focus. The program also offers a $2,000 study abroad scholarship and a certificate in Global Citizenship.

Students are eligible to apply for the Global Citizenship LLC, which offers students the opportunity to discuss world affairs and participate in cultural outings, in their first-year only, due to general education course requirements associated with the program. Students already in the Global Citizenship program will be eligible to live in the LLC in the fall, which will be housed in the Holly G apartments.

“The kinds of programming in that community would help to round out (students’) experience and prepare them to travel, study and work abroad,” Perkins said. “An example would be (students) learning skills related to traveling in countries other than their own country and learning about other cultures.”

Josue Vallejo, a freshman majoring in international business, is in the second group of admitted students to the Global Citizenship program. Vallejo said the creation of an LLC for the program is a good idea, and will give students an opportunity to get to know each other.

“The LLC would be especially great for incoming cohorts,” Vallejo said. “They’ll have a relaxed state where they can get to know each other, and it will be an easier way for them to make long-lasting relationships.”

Perkins said she began her role at USF in 2012 and the newly created position was designed to help provide guidance for the LLCs, and to assist with the expansion of the LLCs on campus.

Currently, the LLC programs have 850 students living in 10 communities across campus. Perkins said she anticipates that number will continue to grow in future years.

“Next year with the addition of the two new (LLCs), we hope to have over 1,000 students in our learning living communities, so I would say that overall the program has grown quite well.”

Perkins said in 2007, a task force was created to meet and set goals for expanding the LLC program, which only consisted of the Honors LLC, and to create additional groups for students to apply for. Additional LLCs were launched in 2009 and later years, and these LLCs work to find ways to assist their students and provide resources that best fit their students’ needs.

Kasandrea Sereno, an adviser for the Zimmerman Advertising Program (ZAP), an LLC designed to target mass communications majors, said students in the LLC have told her they enjoy the like-minded environment they are placed in by living in the LLC, as well as the comfortable atmosphere of the LLC, which is located on the first floor of Poplar Hall.

“Students in LLCs statistically do better, have high retention rates and have higher GPAs,” Sereno said. “How they live directly impacts their progress in college.”

Currently, the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University all offer living learning communities.

Matthew Cuffaro, a freshman majoring in photography, lives in the Green LLC in Maple hall created in 2010, where the community’s focus is on sustainability.

Cuffaro said the LLC has made is possible for him to meet new people.

“It’s like in high school when you join marching band,” he said. “You get to know people, socialize easily and it’s something to concentrate your major in. You join an LLC for the same reason you join a frat, just without the beer.”

Cuffaro said he bonded with others in his LLC by composting and camping out at a spring with the rest of the LLC.

“If college is here for connections, it’s doing an excellent job,” Cuffaro said.

In the Bulls Business Community, first-year students take a university experience course together, which is tailored to meet the needs of business students.

Students are also given the opportunity to attend networking events, have dinner with the dean of the College of Business and participate in company tours of places such as Legoland.

Ileana Hernandez, a freshman majoring in civil engineering, said she joined the engineering living learning community (ELLC) to meet other engineering students.

“I thought it would be easier with similar classes, and that we could work together in case we needed it,” she said. “I can actually relate to most people here since they’re in my major, and it helped me with my transition here and made it a lot easier.”

Students in the ELLC are offered tutoring in the dorms, and participate in group activities to socialize with one another. The ELLC is currently housing students in both Poplar Hall and Castor Hall due to its popularity.

With the success and popularity of current LLCs, Perkins said there is possibility of the creation of additional programs in the future.

“I think that we want anyone who wants to participate in a living learning community, we would like to be able to offer them a place to do that,” Perkins said. “We’re always looking for partners around the campus, particularly academic partners, colleges or departments, that want to create experiential learning opportunities for their students.”

Students who are interested in applying for living learning communities for the upcoming school year may do so online on the Housing and Residential Education website at www.housing.usf.edu/llc. 

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