Two groups of freshmen currently take part in Knox’s new Living Learning Communities (LLCs). The students reside in Post 9 and Post 10 and take the same Freshman Preceptorial as part of the new initiative to enhance the first-year experience.
“Living Learning Communities are a way to provide students with a seamless learning experience, so you don’t just have class and out of class, but your whole experience as a member of a residential college is connected,” said Anne Ehrlich, the Vice President for Student Development.
Ehrlich managed LLCs in the colleges she previously worked at and proposed the idea of implementing a similar program at Knox to former Dean and Professor of English, Laura Behling. Behling agreed and Ehrlich shared her advice with a group of faculty and staff working on the freshman experience to show how LLCs would work on campus.
“There’s lots of research that shows that doing this sort of thing helps students connect with each other in the residence halls more easily,” Ehrlich said. “If you’re in your FP class together and you live together then you automatically have something in common. So on the residential side it makes the transition easier.”
Freshmen Sam Lewis and Greta Keanes signed up for the LLC after receiving a program letter Knox Portal sent to them over the summer. Lewis heard about LLCs at other colleges, and was excited to sign up for the new Knox program. Keanes signed up for the LLC after reading the details of the program.
“They had a basic description of what it was,” Keanes said. “I was at first a little hesitant to get into it because they said, ‘oh you’ll be living with the people you’ll be taking your class with’ and that’s all I really knew. I wasn’t really sure.”
The class the Post 9 residents share is the “This American Life” freshman preceptorial taught by Associate Professor of English Chad Simpson. Much of the time in the suite is spent discussing topics from the class and listening to their podcast assignments together. They also consult their teaching assistant, junior Eli Adams, who lives in the suite with them.
“I help the first-years not only with the assignments specific to Chad’s class but kind of with assignments in college in general, and how to manage time,” Adams said. “They can approach me directly all the time because I live with them. Living with someone, you’re gonna form a different kind of bond. I think it makes teaching them easier.”
Visiting Assistant Professor of English Katya Reno, who teaches a travel themed FP for the other LLC that lives in Post 10, mentioned that her students are able to form a stronger relationship with faculty through the events they participate in.
“We do three events this term and even once the class ends we’ll do them throughout the year,” Reno said. “So we did a walk at Green Oaks, we’re going bowling, and we’re gonna have a dinner together. We’re also going to be working on some kind of service project either in the winter or in the spring.”
Junior Josh Althoff, the resident assistant for the Post 9 LLC, also mentioned how effective the new program was at bringing his residents together.
“I was worried that they were going go to class together and get upset with each other and come back to the suite and still be upset or that suite themes would carry over into the academic environment, but so far that hasn’t been the case at all,” Althoff said. “They all got to know each other much faster than I’m assuming other suites normally do.”
Althoff was assigned to his position at the end of last spring term. He was one of the two RAs who showed interest in taking care of the new LLCs. This is his second year as an RA, and he feels that the experience this year is different in many ways.
“I’m kind of jealous that they get to do this. But it’s hard to be too jealous, because I get to do it with them. It’s really healthy as an RA to feel like you’re a true part of the suite rather than just a supervisor. I really do feel like I’m part of the LLC,” Althoff said. “The difference in how I feel as compared to last year is not that I didn’t feel connected to my residents, but instead that the residents didn’t know each other. I tried to act as an intermediary. This year it’s effortless to find something they have in common, because they all go to class together.”