- Brenda Spencer, Director, Living-Learning Community Program, Florida A&M University
- Neudy Nuñez, Assistant Dean and Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs, University of South Florida
- Delaenam Akahoho, First-year Master’s student (College of Public Health), University of South Florida
- Jasmine Welch, Junior (Biology/Pre-Medicine major), Florida A&M University
FCAN host: Kristen Hengtgen, Senior Researcher, Florida College Access Network
For many students, navigating an unfamiliar new college setting can be a daunting, disorienting experience that negatively impacts their grades and ultimately results in them stopping out.
On October 20, FCAN hosted a webinar highlighting how Living Learning Communities (LLCs) on college campuses have a positive impact on students’ academic performance and persistence.
“LLC’s take you from an A to an A+,” said Delaenam Akahoho, a first-year Master’s student at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health. “They help you understand that college is not a one-size-fits-all experience.”
Get to Know: Living Learning Communities
LLCs are comprised of a group of students who live on the same floor of a residential hall and share an interest in a common theme or major. While there are LLCs offered at two-year colleges nationwide, most of them require residence halls and are more likely to be found at four-year institutions.
Dr. Brenda Spencer, director of Florida A&M University’s Living Learning Community program, said the program was established in 2015 and serves more than 300 first-year students annually.
“We started the program because we wanted to increase our retention and graduation rates and improve our GPAs for first-year students,” Spencer said. “The LLC program is a very vital part of FAMU’s student success initiatives.”
Jasmine Welch, a third-year biology/pre-med student at FAMU, said her LLC was a tremendous help during her freshman year at the university, despite being completely unfamiliar with the concept of a “living learning community.”
“Personally, I had to Google and do my research about it,” said Welch, who decided to join an LLC with a group of students she met at orientation ahead of her first semester at FAMU. “I think first-year students tend to get lost going from high school to college, and this establishes a firm foundation. We also held each other accountable with studying and tests.”
Increasing persistence and attainment
Despite being identified by the National Survey of Student Engagement as a “high-impact practice” positively associated with learning, retention, and degree completion, only 15% of first-year students nationwide participate in LLCs.
Given that 1 in 3 students nationwide do not complete their bachelor’s degree within six years — along with the fact that first-generation students are more likely to stop out after their first-year than their continuing-education peers — more students should consider exploring LLCs.
“I was able to find community and be affirmed in the career path I wanted to choose,” Akahoho said of her LLC experience. “I was able to develop so many skills that were important to my overall academic success and career development.”
Neudy Nuñez, Assistant Dean and Director of USF’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, noted that the proven, positive results among LLC participants is also beneficial to the institutions themselves.
“Colleges are very eager to get as many students to participate in living learning communities as possible,” said Nuñez, pointing to the high rates of retention and academic performance among students who participate in LLCs. “There’s a direct correlation between student participation and how much funding an institution gets.”
Preparing students for life after college
Nuñez shared information about USF’s 10 current LLCs, eight of which are defined by academic major, while the other two serve student population-specific needs (LGBTQ+ and ROTC).
In addition to helping students acclimate to life on a college campus and ensuring they succeed, Nuñez said LLCs offer experiential opportunities — such as a field trip to Busch Gardens for students in USF’s engineering LLC — that can help solidify their career choices.
“They got a behind-the-scenes tour, and they begin to see theory-to-practice what it would be like to work as an engineer,” Nuñez said. “It’s about forming and affirming students’ career identities by linking these sorts of experiences to their academic learning and to their passions.”
Spencer said that students who may not be as certain or outspoken about their career path could also benefit from joining an LLC.
“Even if a student is a little shy, they basically get a built-in family of students they can get to know,” Spencer said.
Welch believes LLCs have the power to help students reach their full potential.
“With students who only have an inkling of what they want to do, you just have to recognize the drive and passion they have, and direct them on the right path,” said Welch, who added that students must be willing to put in the work in order to maximize the impact of their living learning community. “[LLCs are] not just a name. You have to live it, and you have to put more into it so you can give back to your community outside the LLC.”
To learn more about living learning communities and how they bolster student success — or to view the webinar and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources:
Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.