Officials largely happy with living-learning program


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Following the first full year of living-learning communities, officials say there is still room to grow.

A living-learning community is a cohesive theme to connect students with others of similar interests or majors.

“The results [of our surveys and focus groups] were that the students were overwhelmingly happy with their experience, but I think also we learned the experience between communities was really different because of types of events that were offered and frequency of events that were offered,” said Brooke Bernard, assistant director of residence education.

Issues arose with First-Year Hawks, for freshmen, and Community 234, for sophomores and up, by far the largest living-learning community with 1,300 members last year. The two will be consolidated into a singular Hawkeye Pride, which has yet to fully occur.

“Because of the way that our housing system works, it made the most sense to eliminate artificial divides,” Bernard said. “So instead of having what was in essence two different identities on one floor, we just decided to make it one community, and therefore, they can all have that common shared identity.”

Second-year resident assistant and UI junior Victor Valentin said he is happy with the program, but he has some reservations.

“I love the [living-learning communities],” Valentin said. “I think it’s hard though, with the communities, because we as a university believe that we don’t want to build up walls and be segregated to those walls, and I think these communities do kind of put them in those walls.”

He said a major success of the communities is making residents not feel secluded and as though they are part of a family, but that a “downfall” lies in the difficulty with exposing students to different beliefs and backgrounds.

One recommendation Valentin had is to better focus the general communities by hall and floor rather than by theme, which Bernard said is planned for the larger, merged Hawkeye Pride.

Last year, it was difficult to mesh members of First-Year Hawks and Community 234 across halls, she said.

Two new communities are being designed for next year: Hawk IM and STEM Scholars.

Hawk IM will focus on intramural sports; it is a result of student suggestions on a university survey.

“Intramurals was the one that got all the votes,” Bernard said. “We got a lot of affirmation that what students wanted is what we were already providing, and the one sticking out that students wanted was intramurals.”

Students will apply to STEM Scholars through the UI Honors Program. Upon acceptance, they will receive a faculty adviser and $500 to present research at a conference.

The community programmer position was cut, which Bernard said was to remove “an extra layer” from the administrative structure. Instead, RAs will take full responsibility for planning events.

Valentin said he approves because it will prevent miscommunication and he can become closer with his residents.

UI sophomore Karli Seipel was a student in the small, internationally focused Global Mosaic living-learning community last year and is now an RA for the same theme this year.

She said she intends to mirror what was a positive experience to her residents.

“It was actually really close-knit,” she said. “A lot of us really built our own community.”

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