After launching the program last year with two classes, Knox has expanded the number of Living-Learning Communities to five this term. The LLCs house new students with a common first-year preceptorial (FP) course together in a suite with a resident assistant (RA) and a peer mentor.
Biology Professor Stuart Allison is among the faculty handling the LLCs this term. Allison saw the LLC concept as similar to the already existing Green Oaks Term he has participated in, and thought it was a good fit for his class “Walking as a Way of Knowing.”
“The idea is that in an LLC we should be doing things outside of the normal classroom. One of the things we do is we go walking as a group in different environments and sort of explore how walking helps us,” he said.
English Professor Chad Simpson, who taught one of the two LLC courses last Fall Term, acknowledged some skepticism when he first heard the idea. He was familiar with its implementation at larger schools and wondered if it was redundant on an already tight-knit campus like Knox.
“But then I thought too it was a cool idea to try out especially because while we have all these co-curricular and curricular things that happen on campus and often blend together É being more deliberate on it made a lot of sense,” Simpson said.
Simpson said it was a challenge launching the program without past direction to go off, but he saw the impact it had on his class.
“I noticed that the way they knew what was going on in each other’s lives was a little bit different than in most FPs that I’ve taught and most classes that I teach,” Simpson said.
One of the students in Simpson’s FP last fall, sophomore Isaac Hughes also felt that the LLC raised the quality of class discussion.
“It seemed like we knew each other really well ‘cause when you live with somebody you get to know all the ins and outs of them,” he said. “So when it came to discussions, we were able to go really in depth.”
Hughes said that discussions would often continue within the suite, and he enjoyed the experience of being able to easily ask for help and work on assignments cooperatively.
“I think we definitely developed a close connection with the people in the suite Ñ not everybody, but there’s a strong group of people who are still very connected,” he said.
Hughes cited LLC events, such as bowling and a trip to Green Oaks, as among the most memorable aspects of the LLC experience. These events continue after the FP ended into the winter and spring terms.
“Some of them were less well attended than during the fall, but considering that we weren’t in a class together I felt like our suite did a really good job of staying together,” Hughes said.
Simpson acknowledged event scheduling as a major issue that will have to be worked out in the future.
“In the fall you know we have our Tuesday afternoons for FP that are set aside É when they’re not in a shared class in the winter and spring anymore, the schedules are so varied that it’s hard to make a time when everybody can do something,” Simpson said.
Allison didn’t have details on plans for later in the school year, but said his intention was to organize at least a couple of events per term. Allison did identify commitment outside of the class as a possible obstacle in recruiting faculty to teach an LLC.
“It didn’t worry me too much, but I think that is a concern for some people. It’s like, how much time do I have outside of the classroom and what are the expectations? It seems to me they aren’t that great,” Allison said.
Hughes will remain involved in the LLC program this year as a peer mentor. He is mentoring for the Spanish LLC, the most experimental of this year’s classes as the first LLC not attached to an FP.
“I think that language will work really well with the LLC format because you can have the suite be, you know, ‘okay on these days we only speak Spanish.’ Or it can be whenever we’re in the suite we’re speaking Spanish together,” Hughes said.
The Spanish LLC is not restricted to one class, but instead includes students enrolled in several different levels of Spanish, as well at least one student who is a heritage speaker but not in a Spanish class.
Hughes hopes as a peer mentor to keep students engaged with both the Spanish language and culture by planning events such as movie nights and making food from Spanish regions together. He described the LLC as already bonding together.
“A lot of them have an extreme enthusiasm to speak Spanish, even without us telling them to do so É there’s already a strong group of people who are always in the common area,” he said.
Hughes was enthusiastic enough about his LLC experience to be supportive of the idea of having all freshmen in an LLC. Allison noted that the future growth of the program might be dependent on how interested students are.
“This year I think there may have been a few students who wanted to do it who couldn’t get into one, but for the most part they accommodated everybody,” Allison said. “But it also didn’t look like every incoming freshman wanted to do it.”