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Two UI living-learning communities canceled

BY ALEX CORDERO | AUGUST 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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At the end of last year, announcements regarding the addition of new living-learning communities being added to the University of Iowa began circulating.

Two proposed living-learning communities, however, never came to fruition. One focused on the yearly fundraiser Dance Marathon and the other based around the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

“Part of the reason these living-learning communities aren’t available this year is because they were not advertised, and those who attempted to add them started the process too late,” said Colleen Shaull, the assistant manager of University Housing’s contracts & assignments office.

At present, the UI has 16 living-learning communities with approximately 1,500 students participating, spanning areas of interest from engineering to journalism, Shaull said.

Resident assistants in the living-learning communities are involved in an area of study related to the interest of the living-learning community.

Arthur Sanders, a professor of politics and international relations at Drake University, has long advocated the establishment of living-learning communities, starting one of the first at his university more than 12 years ago.

“The idea is to get students around people with whom they share some intellectual interest, have a few classes in common, meet people who they can use as a study resource, and provide an environment for student socialization,” he said.

But not all students who have joined living-learning communities are reaping the benefits that Drake and UI identify as a part of joining.

Though UI officials had hoped to have all incoming freshmen participate in living-learning communities, Shaull said, they might not be right for everyone.

Freshman Zack Chaib, a resident of the engineering living-learning community in Rienow, said he hasn’t enjoyed the experience.

“It’s like kind of like meeting the same person over and over,” he said. “It feels more like I’m at a really small school, because I’m constantly surrounded by a group of what seems like the same people.”

However, administrators and professors who support the living-learning communities, such as Shaull and Sanders, maintain that a diverse environment can be established, even if students have similar interests.

“Students are bound to belong to diverse kinds of groups and have different outlooks and opinions, even if they do share the same interests or are in comparable classes,” Sanders said. “There’s plenty of diversity within these communities.”

With no extra cost to the university or the students who choose to live in such communities, the UI hopes to expand the program further and get the Dance Marathon and LGBT programs running by next year, prompting other organizations to join in the application process.

“The addition and organization of the living-learning communities does not cost the University of Iowa more money, because they are organized by coordinators who are already on the school’s payroll,” Shaull said. “I would urge anyone with a legitimate idea for a living-learning community to apply.”


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