A Brief History of LLCs
Living Learning Communities (LLC) are an academic strategy that link academics to on-campus living. Higher education is no stranger to the concept of living learning communities; and neither is Georgia Tech. Each Georgia Tech community is an integrated experience that promotes interactions between faculty and students, fosters collaboration among students, improves student GPA, enhances campus and civic engagement, increases retention, and eases both the academic and social transition to college.
The oldest LLCs on campus are Women, Science and Technology and International House; beginning almost twenty years ago. In the past ten years, the Honors Program and Grand Challenges were introduced and were the first LLCs on campus to admit first-year students. The proven success of these programs has led to the development of even more LLCs.
LLCs in the Present
In Spring 2017, there are three communities exclusively for upper-class students and three communities that students are admitted to as first-year students. The latter have the option to continue in some capacity as upper-class students. Beginning in the Fall 2017 semester, Georgia Tech will offer two communities for upper-class students, and four communities for first-year students.
Kari White, the Associate Director for Living Learning Communities, has been instrumental in the continued success and growth of LLC programs on campus. When asked what makes an LLC a worthwhile experience for Georgia Tech students, Kari had this to say:
“Students participating in LLCs are provided with opportunities to develop and grow the robust disciplinary knowledge they are gaining in their coursework and communicate it across social, cultural, and economic boundaries. Far more than coordinated activities, the Living Learning Experience at Tech enriches a student’s college experience in every way.”
Kari has established a vision and strategy for LLCs at Georgia Tech, and she’s currently developing a set of standards and identifying best practices for growing and maintaining high-quality LLCs. In addition to the behind-the-scenes planning taking place, there are also physical changes to campus that are already in the works. “I am also working on an exciting renovation on west campus – the Curran Living Learning Commons. With the opening of the West Campus Dining Hall, the Westside Market is closing, and we are renovating that space to provide classrooms, collaborative workspace, and event space for the Living Learning Communities on West Campus,” Kari said.
The Future of LLCs at Georgia Tech
So that’s what’s happening now with LLCs; but what about the future? In addition to physical space, the most effective LLCs are driven by academics. Kari knows that this is true nationally, and studies of Georgia Tech’s campus show that holds true here as well. Kari said, “The natural instinct for administrators (like me) is to outline some communities and then “get” faculty to be involved. We are being painstakingly deliberate in our approach to encourage Colleges, Schools, and Faculty to drive communities.” Kari went on to say that she doesn’t want all of the communities to be a faculty member’s research lab.
The bigger picture for LLCs involves communities that have a variety of purposes: recruitment, skill development, innovation, discovery, entrepreneurship, etc. And Kari also noted that they must add value to the students’ academic experience. Kari also expressed the importance for students to experience LLCs as first-year students. LLCs give first-year students a chance to have meaningful faculty interactions; to have a deep dive into areas of their own interest long before they have discipline-specific technical abilities; to develop life-long friendships with a community of like-minded peers that will transform their experience at Tech, and likely their lives.
“The idea that academic discovery - faculty, schools, and colleges - must drive our LLCs cannot be overstated.”
- Kari White.
By 2022, Kari would like for 90% of first-year students who live on campus to participate in a Living Learning Community. Kari said that, “as we look to the future we are asking faculty, Deans, and School Chairs to think about the next communities and consider how an LLC could benefit their students and their programs. I can’t say exactly what all of the LLCs will be because we are just beginning, but I know how important it is that we provide these types of high quality experiences for our students.”
Get Involved with LLCs on Campus
If you’re interested in joining an LLC, they are currently recruiting for the Fall 2017 cohort for the Honors Program, Grand Challenges, Science, Math, Research Training (SMaRT) and our newest LLC offered by the College of Sciences – Science, Health, and Related Professions (SHaRP). You can visit the LLC site (LINK) to learn more about LLCs at Tech and their current communities.