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SIU students living and learning together

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Mae Smith Hall

The lobby of SIU's Mae Smith Hall features branding specifically to the university's College of Health and Human Services. Many floors of the building are reserved for specific academic majors in an arrangement called Living Learning Communities.

When aviation student Landon Arnold has a question about some of his Southern Illinois University Carbondale homework, he has lots of options for help.

The freshman from Paducah can ask his roommate or he can inquire with the students in the next room on his floor at SIU’s Mae Smith Hall. For that matter, he can ask practically anyone living on his residence hall floor because they are all aviation students.

Arnold lives in what is called a Living Learning Community, an arrangement which allows students with similar academic programs or other interests to live among their peers. The LLCs not only allow residents to get to know other students with whom they share classes, but also gives them unique opportunities to build relationships with faculty and staff as well.

“In LLCs, students who are either in the same major or in the same college will live together in a cluster or in a building or multiple floors,” explained Jim Hunsaker, senior associate director with University Housing. “They can form study groups and we actually have faculty members come in and do learning opportunities for the LLC. It gives students an opportunity to get college experience where they live instead of only in the classroom.”

Many of the university’s academic majors offer LLC options for students. There also are communities for students in the University Honors program and ROTC programs as well as those who identify as LGBTQ or first-generation university students and one for male students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups.

Some LLCs are on a single floor of a building and others comprise a complete residence hall. Living Learning Communities for the College of Health and Human Services take up practically all of SIU’s Mae Smith Hall, one of university’s 17-story residences. The building features college-specific branding throughout.

“The concept behind living in a learning community is to bring the students together where they can be together outside of the classroom,” explained Robert Morgan, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “We thought rather than having our students spread out across the campus, it would be nice to have one centralized location so we could offer more services. By having all of the students in one building, we can do centralized advising, we can do tutoring services or some study halls.”

Morgan said aviation students are on the two top floors of the building, auto technology students are one three floors and other college majors are grouped on other levels.

“The more students we have in one place, the more we can reach and really efficiently provide services that will help toward students getting what they need out of their education,” he said.

Faculty and staff members often teach special topic sessions, join students for dinner and participate in fun activities ranging from corn hole tournaments to trivia nights.

“It’s a way of opening up lines of communication between administration and faculty and students with the ideas of creating a stronger educational environment,” explained Chris Mullins, associate dean of academic and student affairs for the College of Health and Human Sciences. “We know that when we can do that, we increase class attendance, increase grades, increase graduation rates and increase student satisfaction.”

He said the LLCs are a hit with students.

“Students like them. It helps build networks and allows us to build a connection with students on their turf, so to speak,” Mullins said.

Arnold agreed, “As a student, it’s really nice because everyone’s doing the same thing so if you have a question, somebody’s there to help you. Everyone has the same interests so it is very easy to talk to each other. It’s cool.”

SIU Chancellor Austin A. Lane talks about efforts to recruit new students from Southern Illinois.

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