Rollins College Offers Unique Living and Learning Opportunity for First-Year Students

January 17, 2008

First-year students at Rollins College have the unique opportunity to live with and take classes with like-minded peers as part of the Living Learning Community (LLC) program. All first-year students enroll in a Rollins Conference Course (RCC) during the fall semester. RCC is a seminar class in which approximately 16 first-year students take a class with one faculty member to explore a topic in the professor's area of expertise.

Professors are drawn from the full range of academic disciplines encompassing the arts, the sciences, the humanities and the social sciences. Students who enroll in one of three Living Learning Communities also live together in the residence halls, which increases connection among students.

As part of a two-year commitment, Associate Professor of Political Science Michael Gunter and his family have taken up residence in the College’s first-ever faculty apartment. Gunter lives in the apartment, located on the first floor of Ward Hall, with his wife and two young children (ages five and two).

The course component of the Living Learning Community offers a myriad of opportunities for interactive teaching, lively intellectual exchanges, unique programming inside and outside the residence halls, mutual collaboration, and opportunities to interact among first-year students. In the Living Learning Communities, students are expected to live in their respective residence halls for the duration of the academic year.

Rollins 15 Living Learning Community RCC classes go a step further in making students a part of the Rollins community, by either linking a RCC with a companion course, which will offer another perspective on the course theme or approach the course topic using different academic skills, or overlapping with another RCC course that shares a common bond.

Professor of Philosophy Hoyt Edge teaches the RCC class Happiness: What is It and Do You Want It? He has been involved with the LLC effort since the very beginning. Six years ago, while serving as associate dean of the faculty, Edge created, and later launched, the pilot program to “do things to promote and enhance student culture.” He attended a national conference about the benefits of such learning communities, and wanted to blur the lines of in-classroom and out-of-classroom experiences.

The program started with three classes and over the course of five years, the number of students enrolled in LLCs has grown to include more than half of all incoming students.

Edge says one of the surprising aspects of the program is that it has had more cognitive benefits than social benefits. “Our research as well as national studies shows that students learn to think and analyze situations and engage more in all of their classes by participating in programs like the RCC and LLC,” Edge said.

One LLC is the Arts at Rollins College (ARC) Living Learning Community, housed in Rex Beach Residence Hall. Situated near the newly rebuilt Keene Hall music building, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, and the Theatre and Art Departments, this Living Learning Community allows students interested in the arts (music, theatre, dance and film making) to live, study and socialize together.

“These communities enhance the aspect of residential colleges like Rollins,” said Edge. “While there’s much to do in Winter Park and Orlando, we want students engaged in campus life.”

Professor of English Bill Boles teaches the ARC LCC course Making Movies. “Last year, we did find the ARC LLC was one of the most successful,” Boles said. “The students were all hard workers, worked well together and were focused on their work in the arts.”

This past summer, Rex Beach Hall underwent renovations that included updates to the classroom and lounge to provide an enjoyable environment. At least three classes are taught in the Rex Beach classroom, including both RCC classes and companion courses linked to them. The linked classes will offer another perspective on the course theme or approach the course topic using different academic skills.

During the 2007-08 academic year, the ARC LLC has 47 students housed in Rex Beach Hall. Resident Aids (RAs) in Rex Beach Hall hail from each of the arts. First-year students not only have peer mentors during class, but someone who can offer in-depth advice and assist with the transition to college life on a daily basis. The RAs develop programs for their residents that complement their classroom activities, but not interfere with or duplicate them. “The students told us they want to do something different from their classroom experiences in the arts when they have the chance to participate in social events,” Boles said.

Some unique aspects of courses in the ARC Living Learning Community are the ability for professors to teach their courses as two hour-labs and the introduction of Fox Fridays. Faculty have the option of teaching their courses as longer labs to allow more time for students to participate in activities such as improv and dance performances.

“The purpose of Fox Fridays is to bring students together to meet people outside of their classes and their area of study,” Boles said. “We want the students to be engaged in the beginning of the year so they will be excited and more easily interact with other students.” On the last Friday of the month, the students will have to participate in a five minute performance piece incorporating the four elements of the arts program: dance, music, theatre and film.

“The Arts at Rollins College Living Learning Community has really worked well,” Boles said. “This year we have some really strong peer mentors and a nice space to work in.” Perhaps this gives a new meaning to the expression art imitates life.

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