How many can say they know the name of each person on their floor? How about each resident’s major?
Living in a residence hall provides students the opportunity to bond with neighbors on their floor. But often, a shared floor is the only commonality among these students. For students participating in living/learning communities at Marquette, the bonds may be strengthened by common interests and majors, shared classes and floor service trips.
A living/learning community integrates academic and social learning in a residence hall environment and through faculty involvement. The goal is an “enriched learning experience for all students involved,” according to the Office of Residence Life.
Jim McMahon, Associate Vice President and Dean of Residence Life, said that when students with a common purpose are housed together, the possibilities for personal growth are endless.
“Students (in living/learning communities) do better academically and feel a greater connection with the faculty and the university,” McMahon said.
McMahon also said students in these communities are less likely to binge drink, noting that the disciplinary records of these communities are almost non-existent.
“They are engaged in meaningful activities that really interest and engage them in their living environments and keep them out of trouble,” he said.
Marquette has housed living/learning communities for about eleven years. The idea for such residence floors came up during a faculty meeting to discuss diversity on campus. The group was concerned that there was a significant void in opportunities for students to engage in cross-cultural experiences. The plan for a community focused on diversity in McCormick was presented to the Diversity Task Force, the Board of Undergraduate Studies and the Academic Senate. Marquette’s first living/learning community was unanimously approved, and is now known as the Leadership CommUNITY.
The Global Village in Campus Town West was started not long after as a way to help international exchange students adapt to life at Marquette. The program accommodates up to 25 international students who share two-bedroom apartments with two “ambassadors,” undergraduate juniors and seniors.
One of the most recent living/learning communities on campus is the Dorothy Day Social Justice Program, which is open to sophomore students interested in social justice in the surrounding community. Students enroll in specialized sections of Philosophy 1001: Philosophy of Human Nature in the fall semester and Theology 2400: Christian Discipleship in the spring semester. Each course incorporates a service-learning component and time for reflection on the meaning of justice in students’ lives.
McMahon said it takes about two years for plans for a living/learning community to be drawn up and approved. While the endorsement of faculty, administrators and Residence Life officials is crucial, the communities are initiated based on the requests of the student body.
“I never would have thought we would have a performing arts community on campus, but it is what the students want,” he said.
The Performing Arts Community (PAC) is open to sophomore students with an interest in the performing arts, including dance, band, chorus, theater and spoken word. Experience in or exposure to the performing arts is not required, McMahon said.
McMahon said he hopes the performing arts community will inspire artistically talented students to hone their skills, have fun and even find fame one day. He recalled his time as an administrator at the University of South Carolina, where a group of musicians living in the same residence hall formed a band that eventually became Hootie and the Blowfish.
“Students form lasting bonds in these types of communities, even if it is coincidental,” McMahon said.
Elisa Kersten, a freshman living in the Straz Tower Honors Community, is no stranger to the tight-knit communities the living/learning program seeks to establish. A native of a small town in Illinois, Kersten attended a grade school and high school where “everyone knew everyone,” and where it was not uncommon to have the same classmates from kindergarten through high school.
Kersten said the opportunity to be a part of a living/learning community was a significant draw to attend Marquette, even though she had been accepted into other schools and academic programs.
“I was accepted into the honors programs for all the colleges I applied to, but Marquette’s was the only one that offered a living/learning community,” she said.
Even though Marquette Honors Program students are not required to live in the Straz Tower Honors Community, Kersten said it seemed natural to her to live with the people she would see in many of her classes. After a semester, Kersten said having classmates as neighbors provides convenient help with homework and advice for in classes. It is beneficial on a social level as well.
“When you only have classes with people, it takes a little longer to make friends,” she said, “Dorm life in general is helpful, but living in this type of community makes making friends a lot easier.”
Alexis Krueger, a sophomore engineering student who lived in the Engineering community her freshman year, experienced similar camaraderie on the floor. The group of 12 girls would often go to dinner, study in the floor computer lab and watch movies together. Although each have gone their separate ways this year, they remain close.
“Most of us are still good friends, if not best friends, and all of us still say ‘hi’ if we pass on the way to class,” Krueger said.
She added that while it is far easier to meet people with similar majors and interests in a special community floor, it can be more difficult to meet people outside of it, especially for freshmen. But Krueger has found the benefits, both social and academic, to outweigh the negatives.
“For many students, though, I think it holds a lot of promise to make your school year much better, however you choose to measure it,” Krueger said.
Applications for the Dorothy Day Social Justice Living/Learning Community and Performing Arts Community are available at www.marquette.edu/orl, and application deadline is March 9. The Global Village conducts Ambassador interviews annually each fall, and applications for the Nursing, Engineering, CommUNITY and Honors Living/Learning Communities are only available to incoming first-year students.