Students learn, grow together in living learning communites

Ashanka Kumari

When freshmen first enter the Capstone they, are given an opportunity to join a Freshman Learning Community or a Living-Learning Community As a member of one of these communities, freshmen are given the chance to be a part of and get to know a small group that shares a similar interest.

Freshman Learning Communities are small educational and social groups — 10 to 20 students — who share a similar interest and are enrolled together in basic freshman courses such as English and history but are also enrolled in a small weekly course where they meet with a faculty member with expertise in the topic of the community and discuss the topic.

According to the Director of Learning Communities, College of Arts and Sciences’ Pamela Derrick, there are 26 FLCs this fall including communities for students interested in interior design, dance, international studies and pre-law, among others.

FLCs are primarily a fall semester experience, but can be continued in the spring semester as well, said Jeff Elrod, an SGA Senator from the College of Arts and Sciences.

“The benefits are seemingly endless: students build close friendships that will last a lifetime; they are exposed to faculty members and develop friendships with them as well; students in these programs typically keep coming back year after year and are more likely to be involved in different activities on campus and usually graduate on time,” Elrod said.

Elrod’s primary focus, however, has been on Living-Learning Communities such as Parker-Adams, Byrd and Wilson. The primary difference between LLCs and FLCs is that in an FLC students share classes together while in an LLC students may share some classes together but they also live together in the same residence hall.

Elrod has been dealing with the fact that the current locations of communities, such as Parker-Adams, will be torn down in the near future.

“I have been working to make sure that when the older dorms are torn down, the LLC has a proper place to go. The program will continue, there is no question about that, but you cannot put this program just anywhere,” Elrod said.

Nick Starnes, a freshman majoring in international relations and biology, is a member of the French House LLC and has seen many benefits from being a part of the program.

“The main purpose of my community is to help us learn to speak French in a more casual setting outside of the classroom because in a classroom you just learn the grammar and structure. [My community] has watched a lot of French movies and through the discussion of them, I have learned a lot of things about how French is really used that I never understood before,” Starnes said.

“FLCs are not really affected by the current housing situation because FLC members can live anywhere and aren’t required to live in a specific dorm. The LLCs, on the other hand, are largely affected by the current housing situation. The present shift towards larger dorms (such as Ridgecrest and Lakeside) hurts the LLCs because they rely on smaller dorms, ones which cultivate that community which is so important,” Elrod said.

According to Derrick, the future LLC location changes will allow for new ideas.

“The current building [for the Parker-Adams community] has created a positive environment for this program [but] we will modify our programming, communication, services and events to create a similar environment in the future location,” Derrick said.

As a member of the French House LLC, Starnes currently lives in Ridgecrest South, which is one of the newer residence halls that FLC students along with LLC students live in. Although Ridgecrest is a much bigger residence hall than Parker-Adams, Starnes feels the location does not affect his positive experience with the French House LLC.

“They placed us with others who are in our programs. My roommate, for instance, is in French House along with the end of the hall, which has everyone else who is in the French House, so we are still all together,” Starnes said.

According to Elrod, structure of the facility is important to the success of the LLC.

“When looking for a place to move the LLC, structure must be one of the top priorities because without the proper structure, the LLC will not be successful,” Elrod said.

“I think that regardless of the location, being in my French House community is better than not being in it at all because it places us with like-minded individuals who have the same focus,” Starnes said.

For more information on FLCs and LLCs, visit as.ua.edu/learningcommunities/.