by Jonathan Wylie, M.Ed., Kathy Hobgood, M.S., & William Havice, Ph.D.
Clemson’s College of HEHD and Division of Student Affairs have implemented a new residential learning community for incoming HEHD freshmen in fall 2009. The community is a place where students have rich opportunities to engage in living, learning, serving and playing together beyond the classroom.
The idea for the new community came during the 2008 HEHD/Student Affairs Summer Institute. After the institute, several participants began meeting to create a live-in learning environment for HEHD majors. The HEHD Living and Learning Community (LLC) is housed in Mauldin Hall and welcomed its inaugural class in August 2009. HEHD is pleased to have this new initiative as an avenue through which the college is better able to engage, educate and challenge 21st century learners and leaders to see their commonalities as HEHD majors and become true human development specialists.
How does HEHD define 21st century learners and leaders? These are students who embrace and epitomize the ideals of creativity, collaboration and communication in their work. As this state and nation move further into an expanding global economy with an increasingly service-based work force, there is a greater need for entrepreneurial initiatives. Students must have the skills to compete and contribute in order to survive and thrive. As a college, HEHD has worked to create and refine its guiding documents, including the Learner Dispositions.
These six statements create learning outcomes designed to cut across all areas of the HEHD curriculum. As part of their first-year experience, students in the HEHD LLC will become immersed in the dispositions and understand how they relate to them as students and as future professionals. The HEHD LLC will help students develop through four interconnected avenues as they live, learn, serve and play together.
By living together, students in the HEHD LLC will have easier access to each other and to HEHD resources and programs. In a very real and positive sense, they will be a “captive audience” who will benefit from greater interaction with upperclass HEHD students, faculty, staff and alumni. Specially trained and selected peer advisers will live within the community. These upperclass HEHD students will serve as tutors, mentors and role models to the residents. Their charge will be to engage the firstyear students on topics from the academic to the personal.
These increased interactions will enhance and support HEHD LLC students’ development by giving them further opportunities to collaborate and communicate with others in their prospective and related fields. What better way for these students to learn the myriad ways in which the components of HEHD are inextricably linked together? A future teacher living with a nursing major may see the links between their curricula in the areas of preventive health screening. A professional golf management major may have late-night conversations with a recreation and tourism management friend, which leads to new concepts in business and leisure. The possibilities are endless!
Data on Clemson’s other LLCs from the 2008 National Study of Living-Learning Programs (NSLLP) shows that students who participate in a living and learning community have higher GPRs and higher retention rates than nonparticipants. NSLLP data also indicates that Clemson students are more likely to attend a presentation by a professional in their intended field, attend their classes and utilize learning labs or study sessions to improve study skills. Students in the HEHD LLC have access to weekly hall advising sessions, visits from campus departments, servicelearning opportunities and interaction with faculty. These HEHD LLC students have an environment and the resources to help them succeed academically. In addition, programs and activities that focus on the students’ roles as professionals help them become leaders in their field.
There is no greater way for students to live what they learn than by serving others together. Service-learning is a cornerstone of the HEHD LLC and will provide students with practical experiences that demonstrate classroom principles. These service-learning experiences will also provide opportunities for students to grow in leadership roles as they work together with a common goal of benefiting others.
The HEHD LLC is not meant to be all work and no play! Living in a close community will allow HEHD LLC students to develop their social interests while they pursue their academic and career goals. Learning does not take place only in the classroom. Data from other Clemson LLCs has shown that students in LLCs have an easier social transition to college than nonparticipants.
Part of the college’s excitement about the HEHD LLC is that it is such a comprehensive program. The broad perspective of having a collegewide effort combined with the perspective of student affairs practitioners is one that will fulfill the goals of both organizations to enrich the students’ learning experiences.
Students will be challenged to be purposeful in all aspects of their lives; they will be learners and leaders by living, learning, serving and playing together. As Clemson President James Barker has stated, “There is no better investment that South Carolina can make in the current financial situation — none that would promise a higher return on the investment — than college students who will be tomorrow’s leaders, thinkers, entrepreneurs and global citizens.” The HEHD LLC is a place where students will receive wide-ranging resources to help challenge and support them for tomorrow’s world.