New living, learning communities to foster connections

image One added feature at SUNY Oswego this fall is an opportunity for first-year students to better connect with peers, professors and lessons through the college’s new living and learning communities.

This inaugural initiative features five options to engage freshmen and faculty interaction inside and outside the classroom. Each program centers around students taking three courses together, living in the same residence hall and participating in out-of-class activities.

“It offers students an opportunity to build cohorts and connections while gaining quality interaction with faculty,” said Michelle Bandla, SUNY Oswego’s coordinator of first-year programs. “It provides a chance for the students to really integrate information across courses, surrounding a theme or an interest of theirs.”

The five communities are:

- Global Affairs, which appeals to students interested in international perspectives,

- Media and the World, for students in tune with media and popular culture studies,

- Helping Your Community, inviting students who want to make a difference and participate in community service,

- Women and the World, geared toward those interested in learning about women’s contributions to society, and

- Exploring Your Future, which allows undeclared majors to look into academic and career possibilities.

The high level of interest among students and faculty presents a good measure of the program’s appeal, Bandla said. Because at least one course is a FirstChoice small-class offering in each track, each community is limited to 19 students. All five programs were full or near capacity, she added.

“Faculty are very enthusiastic and excited about the prospect of combining in-classroom and out-of-classroom activities, facilitating programs in the residence halls and integrating the information across the courses,” Bandla said. The cooperation of academic departments, student affairs staff and the Office of Residence Life and Housing have helped a good support system jell, she added.

Global Affairs participants live in Hart Hall and also take a fourth course—IST 190, “Global Issues and Awareness”—required of all Hart residents. All other communities reside in Funnelle Hall.

Because almost every course that participants take in this program fulfills core curriculum requirements, the classes will benefit students even if their interests or majors change, Bandla noted.

With interest in the program attracting students from different areas of study and the enthusiasm of members of the campus community, this pilot program may expand in the future, Bandla said.

“Faculty have already voiced interest for doing more living and learning communities in 2006,” she said. “The cooperation has been outstanding, so we’re very encouraged.”

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(Posted: Aug 24, 2005)