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Living-learning communities connect students to academic and personal development under a shared topic.

Flickr/Denison University

Living-learning communities are common in the sphere of higher education as intimate, specialized spaces for students looking to establish community in on-campus residence halls.

“The definition of a living-learning community is a dedicated number of beds that are contiguous to each other and have additional resources dedicated for the purpose of that community,” explains Kathy Bush-Hobgood, vice president of the Association of College and University Housing Officers.

The execution of this can vary, from a few rooms to a floor to an entire residential complex, but all share a common thread of building belonging within that shared experience. “Those types of programs are really important for students but also essential collaborators” for university partners, adds Bush-Hobgood, who is associate vice president for auxiliary enterprises at Clemson University as well.

A majority of LLCs are centered around academics: prehealth, engineering, business, honors, ROTC or music and performing arts. Some are more ideological, touching on interfaith, sustainability, conflict resolution, leadership or social justice.

Others still are identity-focused groups for students belonging to different communities, including LGBTQ+, Asian and Pacific Islander, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latino, African or African American, and Middle Eastern. Many living-learning communities relate to a student’s year at school, targeting first-year, sophomore and transfer levels.

Inside Higher Ed found 10 unique or specialized living-learning communities among U.S. colleges as innovative examples of creating community in residential living.

University of Minnesota—FETCH

In this living-learning environment, you’ll want to both sit and stay.

University of Minnesota at St. Paul students can opt into the FETCH—Fostering Education and Training Canines in Housing—LLC and be paired with a roommate and a pup in Bailey Hall. Minnesota has partnered with Can Do Canines to offer the LLC since 2017.

Each pair of students trains and cares for a service dog that lives in their room for part of the academic year—walking, feeding and training the dog, plus taking the dog to class, work and other outings as appropriate.

While there’s no major requirement for FETCH LLC, one aim is to help students learn more about the service animal industry. The university provides supplies, food and veterinary care for the dog, and participants attend bimonthly training sessions while working with the service dogs.

Florida State—WIMSE

This Florida State LLC comes with a healthy dose of girl power.

Called Women in Math, Science and Engineering (WIMSE) and housed at Cawthon Hall, the LLC promotes women’s success in STEM.

At FSU, LLCs are for first-year students, and the cohort takes a colloquium class together. WIMSE participants can also join the WIMSE Society, which offers the Research Experience Program and other service and research opportunities.

Oregon State University—munk-skukum Indigenous Living-Learning Community

Oregon State University offers students a chance to connect with the first residents of its campus in its munk-skukum Indigenous LLC.

munk-skukum means “to strengthen” in the local tribal language, chinuk wawa, and as such, living in the community connects students to their own Indigenous identities as well as the local history and culture of Oregon’s Indigenous people.

Students in the LLC take Ethnic Studies 241, Introduction to Native American Studies, together and attend the Educational Opportunities summer bridge program orientation.

OSU also hosts the Nia Black Scholar LLC for Black and African American students—the word “Nia” comes from one of the seven Nguzo Saba, the Kwanzaa principles of purpose. munk-skukum and Nia are both on the first floor of OSU’s Poling Hall.

Elon University—Polyglot Floor

On this floor, students greet everyone a little differently, in their own chosen tongue.

Elon University hosts the Polyglot or World Languages Floor as a community for students to explore languages beside English that are taught at Elon: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin and Spanish.

To be eligible to join a polyglot cohort, a student must have completed a full year of language learning in high school or be enrolled in a language course at Elon.

Most residents study French, Spanish or Italian, and half of the rooms are dedicated to first-year students.

West Virginia University—Substance-Free LLC

This substance-free, suite-style living community holds students, first-year and returning students, to a higher standard.

Students at West Virginia University’s Substance-Free LLC commit to not possessing or consuming alcohol, cigarettes or illegal substances in the residence hall, creating an additional measure of support for those who choose to live their lives substance-free.

Southern Arkansas University—Mulerider Band Program

At the risk of tooting its own horn, Southern Arkansas University boasts themes in each of its residential houses, giving every student the opportunity to participate in a program.

Fincher Hall, however, is a little different, as it only hosts members of the SAU Mulerider Band. To be eligible to live in the coed, suite-style residence, students must be accepted through the music department’s band program.

An added bonus: Fincher Hall is located near the Oliver Band Hall on campus, giving the musicians easy access to work and play.

Denison University—The Homestead

Researchers looking for a hands-on approach to ecological sustainability find themselves at home on Denison’s Homestead.

The Homestead is 40-year-old experiment to create a self-reliant agricultural community on the campus space. Each semester, 12 students live in two cabins along with a third, communal space, called “Cabin Bob” after the project’s founder, Robert Bob Alrutz. In addition to the cabins, homesteaders tend to a vegetable garden, a greenhouse and a flock of chickens.

To keep up with the Homestead, students meet weekly and host Saturday morning work parties to chop wood, garden, clean and complete other chores.

Faculty and other guests will host weekly Homestead seminar sessions for discussions relevant to the Homestead. Cabin Bob also boasts a Homestead library, with books related to Homesteaders’ lives and interests as well as a study space, adding another academic dimension to the living-learning community.

California State University, Northridge—Cinema Television Arts LLC

Lights, camera, LLC, action!

California State University, Northridge, students majoring in cinema television arts or in the pre-CTVA track can opt in to the CTVA living-learning community.

This LLC offers additional amenities, projects, classes and community services geared toward helping its film and TV students enhance their technical skills and networking opportunities. While college might not be a movie, this community might feel somewhat like it.

University of Maryland Baltimore County—Discovery Scholars

For students still figuring out what they’re looking for in college, University of Maryland Baltimore County has the right fit for them in its residential community.

The Discovery Scholars Living-Learning Community is a first-year community created for academics unsure of their major and career goals. The community offers engagement across majors in a multidisciplinary approach through social events, workshops and coursework.

DS LLC members complete a first-year seminar with their floor mates. In addition, residents receive advising and support from faculty, staff and peer mentorship from former DS LLC participants who also live on their floor.

Syracuse University—Disability Pride LLC

Undergraduate students interested in disability identity pride and culture at Syracuse University can choose to live in the Disability Pride LLC.

The LLC is housed in Dellplain Hall, which is near the Disability Cultural Center, the Center for Disability Resources and the Center on Disability and Inclusion in the School of Education. Students reside on the first floor and have access to a sensory-friendly space. Disability Pride residents enroll in DES 400: Inclusive Design Intelligence for the academic year, examining issues of ableism and accessibility as well as developing solutions to challenges identified by the disability community. Besides campus events, students can participate in the Student Empowerment Day in Albany, N.Y., together.

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