As the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith prepares for in-person learning in the 2021-2022 school year, it plans to offer three new Living and Learning Communities in the Lion's Den residence hall.
The new LLCs will be for students planning to be business majors, students interested in developing their leadership potential, and students in the Myles Friedman Honors Program. They will join students in the university's first LLC, which is for students working toward a degree in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The STEM LLC began in the fall semester of 2019.
Living and Learning Communities exist to bridge the gap between classroom learning and living on campus. Students with similar interests and goals live together, navigating their first year on campus, building relationships with each other and with faculty and professional staff on campus.
Following the first year of the STEM LLC, Dr. Linus Yu reported that 91 percent of LLC students enrolled for their sophomore year. That's 5 percent more than other STEM students and 20 percent higher than other students in the Lion's Den.
The first class of LLC students earned a 3.42 grade point average and completed 48 hours of credit. Other STEM students in the Lion's Den earned 40 hours, and non-STEM students in the residence hall completed 36 hours.
The LLC effect will last beyond the students' first year, said Beth Eppinger, UAFS director of housing and residential life. "The LLC connection creates more engagement for students," she said. "Research shows that a student who is more connected to their collegiate environment will more likely persist to graduation."
Dr. Letisha Settlage, interim dean of the College of Business at UAFS, said students learn best when they can apply classroom learning to real-world problems, and the LLC presents them with that challenge. "We look forward to engaging students in the Business and Entrepreneurship Living and Learning Community with our business faculty, peer mentors, alumni, and community leaders through programming focused on economic development, career and professional development, and impactful service," Settlage said.
Speaking about the LEAD LLC, Dr. Dave Stevens, dean of students, said, "This immersive living learning environment will allow students to engage in a year-long exploration of leadership guided by key faculty, staff, and university administrators. The LEAD LLC will provide students with the opportunity to expand their leadership network, develop important leadership skills, and have an incredible first-year experience."
Dr. Dennis Siler, director of the Myles Friedman Honors Program, described the Friedman Honors LLC as the springboard to students' success.
"In this LLC, students can develop their leadership and interpersonal skills while learning about the world at large and building community with their peers here and abroad," Siler said. "There are opportunities for interacting with our international students on campus, as well as faculty and community leaders. LLC participants will also enjoy extra support to explore research prospects, gain global experiences, and participate in service opportunities."
Joining an LLC is easy, Eppinger said. First-year students with academic interests matching one of the centers can apply after being admitted and applying for campus housing. "The LLC experience comes at no additional cost to the student, yet the benefits are numerous," she said. "From faculty showcases to meet-and-greets with community leaders to field trips, to hands-on activities, a participant will never be bored."
Eppinger added that the first 20 students accepted into each LLC will receive an extra $1,000 scholarship for their first year of participation, in addition to and compatible with any other UAFS scholarship, including Housing scholarships, they may be already receiving.
For information about Living and Learning Communities at UAFS and how to apply for campus housing, please visit https://campuslife.uafs.edu/housing/llc-information.