WKU looking to emphasize living learning communities

Normal+and+Regents+Hall+were+recently+opened+to+students%2C+and+offer+13+new+LLCs.+

Anna Leachman

Normal and Regents Hall were recently opened to students, and offer 13 new LLCs.

Debra Murray, Digital News Editor

The opening of Regents and Normal Halls created space for 22 living learning communities tasked with connecting students with similar academic goals or personal interests.

Housing and Residential Life’s goal for the first official year of LLCs was to have 40% of all first-year students join LLCs; however, only 35% have, according to Kirsten Hooks, program specialist for the LLCs.

Hooks said 18 months of planning went into creating the communities.

There are currently 13 academic and six interest-based LLCs. Academic LLCs have a set of courses for students to take with their peers.

“Students who participate in an LLC also take at least one class together; you stand to benefit from access to a built-in peer study group,” Hooks said via email. “LLC participants benefit from special programming (activities and events) designed exclusively for members of the LLC.”

Hooks said HRL are working on how to further organize LLCs into students’ time at WKU, similar to the Intercultural Student Engagement Center (ISEC) LLC, which plans for freshmen to live in Hugh Poland Hall, then move to Meredith Hall for their sophomore year.

“It’s difficult to organize for LLCs after their sophomore year since so many students move off campus,” Hooks said.

Students are able to apply for their LLC while they apply for housing. Students list their two preferences, and their application then goes through a committee.

“We’ve changed our housing application so LLCs are actually the first thing they see after they put in their demographic information,” Hooks said. “We know how important LLCs are. We really want to get it in their faces. It’ll pop up if they have a designated major already.”

Faculty fellows are expected to complete office hours and host events for students. Both Normal and Regents Halls, the new residence halls with LLCs, have office spaces available for faculty fellows to utilize.

“They have intentional goals and objectives they have to meet in terms of succeeding academically, socially and giving students a sense of belonging on campus,” Hooks said.

Beckie Stobaugh, associate professor in the School of Teacher Education, is one of two faculty fellows for “Top of the Class,” the education living learning community. Stobaugh said the LLCs will help students to become involved in their major sooner.

“What I love about the living learning community is that I think the value is just building relationships earlier,” Stobaugh said. “Anytime you have a large campus, I think the challenge is how do you make groupings of people, how do you facilitate that. Often in
the past, those connections have been made much later into their major.”

Each faculty fellow will host events for the students. For “Top of the Class” students, they will attend a Halloween ball, “School of Rock” movie night, and more throughout the semester.

“There’s a lot of cool events tailored to just this group to build camaraderie, to build community among them,” Stobaugh said. “Of course, they’re taking classes together, so I think it’ll be a good thing.”

While most of the living learning communities are new, the business LLC is going into its fourth year and will expand within the new Regents Hall. Business LLC Faculty Fellow Ron Rhoades said the 2021-22 cohort is more than twice the size of the past three years.

The business LLC is funded by WKU alumni Gary and Gail Broady, so there is no additional cost for students.

“I think a broader goal is to achieve, basically a family, a living learning community,” Rhoades said. “As the students get to know each other and take classes together, form study groups together, all living on the same floor of the dorm becomes a big extended family. We’ve had that experience in the business living learning communities for the last three years, and we expect that to continue.”

Digital News Editor Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected] topper.wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy.