UI adds more living-learning communities


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UI officials hope to curb low freshman retention rates by adding four more living-learning communities next year.

The new living-learning communities — areas in which students with similar majors or interests live near each other — are Latino culture and language, career leadership academy, law study and legal careers, and sustainability.

Three of the four new opportunities will only be open to freshmen; sustainability will be open to all students. Students who live in the communities will take at least one class together.

“I think we will transform the undergraduate educational experience” at the UI, said Provost Wallace Loh.

The university’s freshman retention rate — which is around 83 percent — is one of the leading factors behind the program, said Beth Ingram, the associate provost for undergraduate education.

University officials have noted the UI’s retention rate is the lowest in the Big Ten.

Loh said officials hope is that additional living-learning communities will shrink the size of the campus in freshmen’s minds, making it easier for them to integrate into the school.

More than 1,000 residents live in the university’s 12 living-learning communities on campus, said Heather Ockenfels, a manager of Residence Life.

Next year’s sustainability living-learning community is unique, aside from opening its doors to all UI students.

The sustainability community will include field trips and chances to work in the UI’s student gardens.

“Right now, we are seeing an opportunity for us to connect faculty to students,” Ockenfels said.

Though they’re adding four new communities, officials will close the computing mathematics and science living-learning community next year because of lack of interest.

The UI is not the first of the state’s regent institutions to explore this domain.

Iowa State University has an extensive program boasting 70 learning communities — 50 being nonresidential, said Kurt Earnest, the coordinator of Resident Life and Academic Services at the university.

The University of Northern Iowa has taken a different approach by expanding community options that are not course-related.

Past attempts to create course-related living-learning communities have been unsuccessful, said Lyn Redington, the director of Residence Life at the school.

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