Students to form own dorm communities

For the first time students can create their own Living Learning Communities.

Casey Skalbeck, Mark Kruze, and Danie Feld relax in the lounge of their Arts Living Learning Community floor in Middlebrook Hall with other students who share similar majors and interests.

Casey Skalbeck, Mark Kruze, and Danie Feld relax in the lounge of their Arts Living Learning Community floor in Middlebrook Hall with other students who share similar majors and interests.

Jill Jensen

When it comes to residence halls, University of Minnesota students Linnea Johnson and Alexander Cook prefer high academic standards over square footage or location.

ItâÄôs easier to relate to people who, like him, are also frustrated to have a 3.7 GPA, said Cook, who lives in one of the UniversityâÄôs Living Learning Communities.

While these students live in the honors community, starting in fall, eligible returning students will be able to create their own themes for their own LLCs.

Four residence halls commonly hosting upperclassmen âÄìâÄì University Village and Yudof, Centennial and Pioneer Halls âÄìâÄì will each accommodate adjacent rooms of between eight and 20 students who have applied to live together in a Theme Living Learning Community. There is no extra charge, and Community Advisors will be assigned to each theme community. Eligible students must currently live in on-campus housing and intend to return for fall semester.

Johnson and Cook co-habitate with students studying in the same classes and on the same difficulty level, like honors physics.

Assistant Director of Residential Life Susan Stubblefield said the idea was developed to provide returning students who have connected, based either on personal interest or academic focus, the opportunity to live together another year in a larger group.

In the past, Housing and Residential Life has only allowed students the opportunity to choose their roommate.

Stubblefield said Theme Living Learning Communities will differ from the Second Year Experience, a community for returning students already supported by Housing and Residential Life. Whereas the Second Year Experience brings unacquainted students together for a “unique bonding experience,” the themed communities are for students who already know each other.

“The common bond is already there,” Subblefield said.

All Big Ten schools have some variation of a living learning program, although the University is the first to adopt themes chosen by students.

Indiana University boasts a similar program allowing students to live in thematic communities in conjunction with their major or shared interests, said Denise Gowin, associate director of academic initiatives and services for residence programs at IU.

The themes, which range from outdoor adventure and religion to history, ethics and philosophy, are designated by the residential hall system with student input and do not have class requirements. Allowing students to produce their own themes, however, has not been discussed.

“ItâÄôs not on our radar at this point,” Gowin said.

Of the more than 20 LLCs on campus at the University, roughly 90 percent are sponsored by an academic department, although some, like the Students Crossing Boarders Community, are sponsored by the Housing and Residential Life Department.

Approximately 1,100 of 4,600 first-year students who chose to live on campus applied to live in a Living Learning Community for the 2010-11 school year, said Associate Department Director of Housing and Residential Life Mannix Clark.

Clark said LLCs are designed to increase student retention and GPA. The communities will encourage students to live on campus in close proximity to others with similar interests, he said.

Students housed in LLCs in Middlebrook Hall appreciate the semi-private bathrooms and reputation that precedes it, but first-year Danie Feld said she chose to live in the West Bank Arts House because she wanted to be with students who have similar interests in art, music and theater.

Students in their community attended the Minnesota Orchestra concert together, said first-year student and West Bank Arts House resident Casey Skalbeck.