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The Daily Tar Heel

Campus communities enhance education

Friends, service add to experience

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Natassia Rodriguz, a Residential Advisor, talks to Alexandra Lucas and other residents in the W.E.L.L. community of McIver Residence Hall.

There’s nothing like shared bathrooms, broken elevators and floor activities to bring a group of people together. For the 560 students in the living-learning communities this year, they enter their dorms knowing they will have more in common with their neighbors than a UNC education.

The 12 living-learning communities on campus range from The Language Houses to Men at Carolina. Each community shares a philosophy based on the three “C’s”—the common goal of students to build connection, commitment and citizenship.

Students are encouraged to immerse themselves in educational seminars, service projects and social relationships relating to an area of interest, whether it is sustainability, substance-free housing or UNITAS.

“We give students an opportunity to explore a passion outside of their major,” said Annice Fisher, coordinator for learning and leadership for Housing and Residential Education. “It doesn’t matter what you came to study.”

Fisher said living-learning communities are meant to be a gateway for students to get involved on campus. The communities typically include a weekly or biweekly seminar on the topic of the community, along with social activities and service.

To apply to a community, simply submit a UNC Housing application and answer three specific questions. Special emphasis is put on creating a group with different backgrounds and beliefs.

Students join living-learning communities for a variety of reasons, Fisher said. Many in the Spanish and Chinese houses are often seeking fluency in the language. For those interested in the study abroad programs, language houses provide an immersion program right on campus.

In the R.E.L.I.C. community, students from a variety of religious backgrounds gather to learn more about other perspectives. The communities are designed to bring a diverse group of students together.

“We’re not saying we’re the experts in sustainability, but we’ll bring a level of knowledge and you bring a level of knowledge,” Fisher said.

Sophomore Arielle Santiago chose to enter The Carolina Experience community as a freshman, in hopes that a living-learning community would help with the transition to college.

“The idea behind it is to give incoming first-years a well-rounded immersion into UNC lifestyle. They try to get you involved in different cultural and academic experiences,” Santiago said. “As an out-of-state student who didn’t know anyone coming in, this looked like a really good way to meet people and get immersed, connect and have a good time.”

Living-learning communities also encourage more interaction among people in the given community.

“It was a really good way to get to know people on my hall,” said sophomore Kate Gooden, who also lived in The Carolina Experience community last year.

Students in a living-learning community are expected to focus on intentional learning outcomes. They look for ways they can enrich the campus community through civic engagement, seminars and other projects.

UNC is working on a thirteenth living-learning community to bring junior transfer students together in a section of Ram’s Village. The goal of the newest community is to help with the junior transfer retention rate at UNC, Fisher said.

“It will give us the opportunity to get them together and connect with them.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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