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Kuntz: Living-learning communities positive

BY KATIE KUNTZ | NOVEMBER 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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First-year students at the University of Iowa next year will have a new way of choosing on-campus housing. Rather than considering which building, students will select their residence based on their top-five interests in living-learning communities.

The new initiative will require all students living on campus to join a living-learning community. In past years, the living-learning communities were optional, but Von Stange, the director of University Housing and Dining, said only around a quarter of first-year students chose to join one this past year.

However, the plan for next year addresses many student concerns and is likely to increase student success. 

“Part of it is that we may not have a living-learning community that interests them, and some students may fear that they don’t get to choose their roommate or live in a certain building,” he said.

“But really, students will still be able to choose their roommates and not all living-learning communities are geared toward academic majors.”

There are more than 30 options for living-learning communities for students next fall, which is more than double what was offered this fall.

“Ultimately, we made the decision because we know the research shows that students have better retention, do better academically, and we think this should work for the entire system,” Stange said.

In fact, the living-learning community program at Iowa State University is nationally ranked and highlights the potential for success in that students who joined a community were more likely to return to ISU their second year and were more likely to graduate than students who did not participate. University officials rely on similar research in their support for the expanded program.

Brooke Bernard, an assistant director of Residence Life academic initiatives, said the communities for next fall are going to offer better services to students because they are focused on academic interests rather than specific majors. Also, the communities will have more input from faculty and Iowa City community partners.

“We want to offer a really rich experience for first-year students that will hopefully be memorable to students as they finish their freshman year,” Bernard said.

The transition from college to high school is tricky for students. This new program will not only help students make friends with similar interests, it will help students do better in school, and that is something we can support.


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